Ever since Friends went off the air in 2004, networks have been trying to duplicate its success, with mixed results. Some of these shows are genuinely great, but it seems like the best ones are never given the time and space to thrive by their networks. Friends was a critical hit and a cultural juggernaut, built on the chemistry of its talented cast and the fact that, at the time, a show about a bunch of friends just hanging out was still a fresh formula. By now, there are a few Friends copycats every year, with most getting cancelled within the season (Weird Loners, One Big Happy, and Marry Me). However, some managed to stick around and add something to the genre. Let’s check out some of the more successful Friends clones.
How I Met Your Mother
HIMYM probably came the closest to achieving the same success as Friends: It was well liked by both critics and viewers, running for nine seasons and maintaining cultural relevance for most of its run. There were will-they-or-won’t-they romances and classic friendships plucked right from the Friends playbook, and it managed to add some iconic references to the cultural lexicon. It may have grown stale in later seasons, but we can thank HIMYM for slap bets, the Hot/Crazy Scale, and for reminding us that “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers is one of the greatest road trip songs of all-time.
I still miss this show (even you, Dave). Happy Endings was a critical hit with a small, but passionate following, but ABC could never figure out how to market it. It was endlessly shuffled around the schedule until it was unceremoniously cancelled after three seasons. It’s a real shame that Happy Endings wasn’t given more time, because few shows were as quick with sharp jokes and an honestly funny cast. They all moved on to different projects (including two other shows on this list), but all have left or had their most recent shows cancelled. Maybe ABC can rectify their mistake and make the cruelly teased reunion a reality.
New Girl is basically just Friends for the hipster set, starring Zooey Deschanel, the Queen of Twee herself. All the pieces are there… roommates, weird pets (what happened to Winston’s cat?), and a regular hangout spot, now a bar instead of a coffee shop. New Girl really found its footing in its stellar second season, and fans are hoping that the upcoming fifth season will be a return to form. Stop trying to make Jess and Nick happen. Just give us more True American.
Coupling was literally marketed as a raunchier version of Friends when it was first released, and posed a similar question: Can men and women be friends without sex messing things up? While Friends made it clear that many of its friendships were only platonic, Coupling took a different track, making it clear that most of the men on the show were only “just friends” for the time being. Luckily, the show was actually very funny and featured some great performances. Just never, ever go to a dinner party at Susan’s. Just don’t.
It really is a shame that the title of this show was so terrible, because it was hilarious and often sweet. It may have started with Courtney Cox (an original Friend!) trying to bang younger dudes, but it quickly mellowed out into a show about a bunch of friends who liked to play Penny Can and drink lots of wine. Cox even enlisted a few of her old Friends to cameo; Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry both appeared on the show as guest stars. Cougar Town started out on ABC, but was moved to TBS before heading off to the Big Cul-de-sac in the Sky. It ran for five seasons and had a very loyal fanbase.
The Big Bang Theory
You knew this would be here. Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to discount the popularity of The Big Bang Theory. Until quite recently, The Big Bang Theory was the most popular show on television, with more viewers than many of the other shows on this list combined. It mines the Friends‘ well with drawn-out romances and roommate squabbles with a twist. (It’s funny because they’re NERDS!) Despite the internet’s ire, The Big Bang Theory shows no signs of slowing down and has been renewed through 2017.