At first glance, it’s not immediately obvious how Seinfeld and Friends are alike. Both sitcoms were at peak popularity in the 90s and featured ensemble casts living in New York City. But as far as overall vibe, these two shows couldn’t be more different.
There is one glaring difference between Seinfeld and Friends. And long-time fans may be surprised to learn that there’s also a similarity between these two beloved comedies that could prove Seinfeld as the superior series.
‘Seinfeld’ characters are intentionally unlikable
Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer are undoubtedly hilarious on Seinfeld. But they aren’t good people, and that’s kind of the point. These four single friends treat each other terribly on purpose and never apologize.
The show’s co-creator Larry David famously had two strict rules for the show: no hugging, and no learning. They didn’t want Seinfeld to become a moral beacon or attempt to instruct audiences to act a certain way.
Fans of the series came to appreciate the brutal honesty of Seinfeld and how the characters were unapologetically awful.
The ‘Friends’ cast wasn’t much better than ‘Seinfeld’
In the opposite camp, the Seinfeld contemporary Friends was all about hugging and learning. The series saw Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe constantly improving themselves and imparting life lessons. The difference, however, is that showrunners wanted the audience to connect with and admire the Friends cast.
It played out in the “we were on a break” saga between Ross and Rachel. Even though the relationship had its ups and downs, ultimately the audience was meant to like the characters and emulate them.
However, the Friends cast wasn’t necessarily more likable than Seinfeld; they were just more subtle about their negative qualities. Friends fans complain about Ross being too whiny, Monica being too obsessed with cleanliness, and Joey being a misogynist, to name a few.
‘Seinfeld’ embraced nihilism as a lifestyle
The characters on Seinfeld seemed content to celebrate how meaningless life was and therefore how trying to be better people was pointless, too. This nihilistic worldview was relatively new in the world of TV, and audiences found it hilarious.
Meanwhile, the Friends characters did strive to be better as seasons progressed. Instead of confronting their flaws head-on, like with Seinfeld, or celebrating them, the six Friends all acted like they were superior. They didn’t have the self-awareness of Seinfeld characters which ultimately made them less likable.
Both shows have cult followings
An argument could be made for Seinfeld being the more honest of the two shows. But ultimately it comes down to a matter of preference when it comes to deciding between Friends and Seinfeld.
Jerry Seinfeld famously said that Friends ripped off the ensemble of singles in New York City concept, just with more attractive actors. “We thought, ‘They [Friends creators] wanna do our show with better-looking people. That’s what they’re doing here,’” the comedian told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we thought, ‘That should work.’”
Still, choosing between the two is subjective. Is there a better comedy? Fans get the final say on that one.