8 Shows to Binge While You Wait for HBO Max to Launch with Friends
If you couldn’t be any more disappointed about Friends leaving Netflix at the start of 2020, it’s a “moo point” because there are plenty of similar shows that can help fill the orange couch-sized hole in your heart. Friends will be back on a streaming service when HBO Max launches in May, but in the meantime, you can jump into these eight bingeable series.
Some feature the beloved Friends stars themselves, some bring the ‘90s nostalgia, others follow a similarly humorous group of pals, and a few even combine more than one of those elements to really have you thinking you found your new TV show lobster. Before you shell out for HBO Max (which will cost $14.99/month), fire up your Netflix and Hulu accounts, order the Joey Special (two pizzas) and check out these series. (And keep your fingers crossed for a Friends unscripted reunion on HBO Max!)
How I Met Your Mother (Hulu)
The series, which follows Ted (Josh Radnor) as he details to his children the long version of how he met their mother, has often been referred to as a more modern-day Friends. Ted and his four besties — womanizer Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), Canadian newswoman Robin (Cobie Smulders) and super sweet couple Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) — have their go-to New York City hangout in MacLaren’s pub, cohabitate and deal with misadventures in love and friendship. The sitcom brings on big-name guest stars like Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears in a similar fashion to how Friends featured Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and Reese Witherspoon. At the end of nine seasons, you can join the debate over who Ted should’ve ended up with and how it all wrapped up.
Jerry Seinfeld’s semi-autobiographical sitcom takes place in the same era and city as Friends, with its titular character working in the entertainment business like Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and living across the hall from zany pal Kramer (Michael Richards). Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and George Costanza (Jason Alexander) round out the group that hangs out at their favorite coffee house, Monk’s Café. Seinfeld also boasts a string of memorable auxiliary characters like The Soup Nazi, a caricature of George Steinbrenner, and Newman, who play roles akin to Friends’ Ugly Naked Guy, Gunther and Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula. Just as Friends gave us the Holiday Armadillo, Seinfeld introduced Festivus for the rest of us.
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Cougar Town (Hulu)
Courteney Cox heads to Florida in this post-Friends foray that tackles her character’s new life as a single mom after going through a divorce. Her best friend (Busy Philipps) and lots of wine help her navigate aging, dating again and co-parenting her high school-aged son (Dan Byrd) with her ex (Brian Van Holt), who she maintains a civil — sometimes too civil — relationship with after splitting. Jennifer Aniston even makes a guest appearance in a season 2 episode (pictured), so pop a bottle of vino and sip along with the cul-de-sac crew.
The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
Aniston reunites with her Friends sister Witherspoon for this #MeToo era dramedy. Aniston’s seasoned network newswoman Alex Levy is a far cry from Rachel Green, the Ralph Lauren employee who dated her assistant, but seeing the actress on the small screen again serves as a treat for any Friends fans. The role even earned Aniston her first SAG Awards win since her early Friends days.
Will & Grace (Hulu)
Will & Grace aired on the same network as Friends for six years and also followed buddies living together and traversing life and love in New York City. The comedy went off the air two years after Friends, but got picked up by the network again in 2017. In addition to the two series sharing a similar sense of humor, pace and tone, there’s a bonus Friends connection: David Schwimmer makes an appearance in the second season of the Will & Grace revival (pictured) as a crotchety Twitter personality who dates Grace (Debra Messing).
The Cheers spinoff also aired on NBC at the same time as Friends, picking up with Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) moving back home to Seattle from Boston following the end of his marriage. Frasier has a close relationship with his brother (like Monica to Ross) and they too have a preferred java spot in Café Nervosa. Frasier eventually becomes friends with his radio show co-host and also gets used to his retired police officer dad living with him after he got injured on the job. It can take a sentimental turn at times, but Frasier — especially those sweaters — still epitomizes the 1990s.
Though Joey served as the official Friends spin-off, LeBlanc’s Episodes doesn’t seem too far from that world, especially since it comes from Friends and Joey producer David Crane. LeBlanc plays a version of himself in the Showtime comedy that follows his character getting a role in an American series being adapted from its British predecessor. The show’s five seasons don’t shy away from referencing Friends and LeBlanc’s on-screen persona gets into jams one would imagine an older, slightly wiser Joey might find himself in — and he still loves to have his way with the ladies. Schwimmer made an appearance on Episodes, too, in season 4.
The Comeback (HBO Now, HBO GO)
Lisa Kudrow went right from Friends to this HBO dramedy, in which her character attempts to regain fame through a reality show that tracks her return to sitcom stardom. Valerie (Kudrow) will do anything to stand out even if it means embarrassing herself and she has her quirks, just like Phoebe. The series, which aired two seasons nine years apart, offers a critical look at celebrity and pop culture that can get pretty meta, as Valerie analyzes fame on the heels of Kudrow’s own career-defining turn in Friends.