Was ‘Friends’ Actually Being Told From The Future?

Friends was among the most successful television shows of all time. Friends ran from 1994 until 2004 and became so iconic that it is still heavily discussed, 16 years after the show’s final episode aired. What if the way you thought about the show was completely wrong, though? One fan theory suggests the entire series was secretly being told from an entirely different perspective, and while it does make sense, it completely alters the way we look at the show.

A fan theory suggests the entire series was one giant flashback

One Reddit fan suggested that the entire series is just one giant flashback. According to the theory, Ross Geller, Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Joey Tribianni, Phoebe Buffay, and Chandler Bing are all much older than they appeared on the series. Instead of it being told from the present tense, the user believes the show might be a series of flashbacks that are brought up organically in a conversation in the future.

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay
The cast of ‘Friends’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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The user’s theory is reportedly based on the way the show’s episodes are titled. The user claims that “the one where..” title style appears to be a nod to the way people tell stories from the past. Not everyone is convinced that the theory is correct, though. Another user pointed out that Friends couldn’t possibly be a flashback of events because the series had several flashback episodes.

There have been several shows that have been narrated by someone in the future

There have been several shows that have been told from the perspective of a character’s future self. How I Met Your Mother and The Wonder Years, might be the two most notable examples. In both shows, a narrator is utilized to clue fans into the fact that the story being told is in the past. The Wonder Years, according to Mental Floss, took the idea from A Christmas Story.

Chandler and Joey pack up their apartment
Joey Tribianni and Chandler Bing | Getty Images

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Friends, however, doesn’t use a narrator at all, which suggests the show was set in the present day. One would think, if the show were being told from the perspective of one of the characters in the future, it would have focused, more intently, on the perspective of that one character. For example, in How I Met Your Mother, the story is told from the perspective of Ted Mosby. Because the story is told from his memories, his view is infused in each episode. Friends doesn’t follow the same formula. Monica Geller’s storyline is no more highlighted than Rachel Green’s thoughts, for example.

There is another reason that Friends episodes have such unique titles

While the fan theory certainly forces viewers to look at the show from an entirely different perspective, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the show’s chosen pattern for episode titles. Instead of hinting at the entire series being events that took place in the past, it’s possible that the writers were paying homage to the way viewers generally discuss television shows.

Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribianni and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribianni and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green | Getty Images / Handout

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When people talk about television shows, they very rarely know the title of the episode. Instead, they mention specific events within the episode to jog the memory of the person they are discussing it with. The Friends episode titles used the same conversational style. It seems way more likely that the titles were created to facilitate quick recall for fans, than having the entire story being told in a series of lowkey flashbacks.

The series catchy titles may also be the reason fans have such an easy time discussing the series, 16 years after it went off the air. Even if the show wasn’t told from the perspective of a future self, it’s still a fun way to look at the series. In fact, it probably would have been a brilliant way to approach the show, in the first place.