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The One Where I Talk About Friends

(from 5x14 "The One Where Everybody Finds Out")

I can't believe that this show is 19 years old. Nineteen. I just realized it when I saw a post celebrating its birthday.

As much as I love How I Met Your Mother, I can still say with all honesty and with so much affection that nothing - nothing - beats Friends.

This show is where it all began for me. In many ways, I felt like I grew up with this show, because I remember catching some episodes on ABC 5 back when I was a kid. But I only really began to appreciate it in high school, when I stumbled upon my aunt's DVDs one summer at my grandparent's house. It was 2005, and I was just beginning my teenage years. The characters and the situations spoke so much to me, even though I was only 13 and knew nothing about being an adult. For some reason, even to an adolescent living halfway across the world, watching these six friends become family made sense. It was funny, it was touching, it was genuine - I didn't need to be a 30-something New Yorker to get that.

Until now, no matter what time it is, or what channel it's on, as long as I catch an episode of Friends on TV, I will drop everything I have to do and watch it. I remember, I used to write down the schedule of Friends on different channels during that summer break: on Star World, ETC, and Warner TV. And no matter how many times I've seen the episodes, I will gladly sit down and have all my attention on it. That's how much I love it.

One question I've always been asked is the inevitable "Friends or How I Met Your Mother?" Of course, the generic answer to that is, "I love them both." Like a mother denying favorites. But to be really honest about it, as a huge HIMYM fan, I will be the first one to say that the latter is a "remix" of Friends in many, many ways. So many things from HIMYM are lifted (or were "inspired by") Friends. Case in point: the nerdy-guy-who-pines-for-the-hot-chick-and-always-loses-at-love Ross/Ted character is the most undeniable one, I believe. The solid couple Monica/Chandler and Lily/Marshall. The Rachel/Joey and Robin/Barney pairing. And even little things like "Challenge accepted" and the fascination with Star Wars.

But I welcome that. A lot of shows, not just How I Met, would not even exist if it weren't for Friends. Nothing can beat this original. The writing is impeccable and the humor is just spot-on. I don't remember not laughing at any of the episodes of Friends. They promised comedy, and they delivered every single time. While HIMYM did start out as a strong contender, I still think that over-all, Friends was a better-written sitcom. It was consistent. It was always funny. (Like ^that episode. Probably one of the sharpest-written episodes of any show ever.) No wonder Friends raked in nominations and awards. And no surprise that it's still being serialized on so many channels, all over the world, any time of the day. It just makes you feel better. All. The. Time.

How I Met Your Mother, on the other hand, has turned into a completely different animal. It's no longer just a sitcom because it has boldly traversed the rom-com and dark comedy genre - which is something Friends never truly explored. HIMYM gives us feelings: actual, adult, complex feelings. And sometimes the show is not brave enough to not resolve them. It doesn't always work to its favor, but it's satisfying nonetheless. This is what makes HIMYM different from Friends - the fact that it no longer settled for being funny. It went sad, and dark, and difficult. It spoke to the sides of you that you try to escape when you want to watch a sitcom. And it was okay.

Whereas Friends hugs you, gives you a cup of coffee, and cracks a joke to make you feel better, How I Met Your Mother opens a bottle of beer for you and calls you an idiot.

And I love them both to bits, really. I have both series (complete, all seasons, with subtitles), on both my hard drive and on my laptops. I randomly select any episode when I feel like distracting myself a little (aka when I'm dying from Torts or Criminal Procedure) and all is fine in the world again. I play them when I'm eating dinner alone in my condo unit, I play them while I'm trying to stay awake at 2:30 in the morning, I play them when I'm sad and missing home. It's great company -- they're great company.

Friends aired its first episode 19 years ago, and aired its last episode 9 years ago. How I Met Your Mother just aired the first episode of their last season yesterday.

And I'm having all kinds of feels.

Both are great, terrific shows. They kept me together in my darkest days, and they stuck with me until the better ones. More than any other television program, these two shows are what truly defined how I treat people and how I handle the shit that life throws my way. And most importantly, how I learned to value the people whom I call friends.

But until HIMYM gives me the truly, completely satisfying ending that I think we (not just Ted) all deserve, Friends edges it out by a margin. The Friends finale was perfection - it tied up all the loose strings and gave each character the happy ending they deserved. Each one of them earned it. Friends gave us the right sense of closure.

It also gave us the Holiday Armadillo, Dr. Drake Ramoray, and Miss Chanandler Bong. And for that, I will forever be thankful.