onsdag 16. juni 2021

Still There for You: China’s Enduring Obsession With ‘Friends’

On a late May afternoon, the Central Perk café briefly became the hottest spot in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. People started rushing into the coffee shop at 3 p.m., squeezing onto its plush orange sofa, perching on armrests, and leaning against the bar. Soon, there was barely enough room to stand.

They’d all come to indulge in a shared obsession: the American TV show “Friends.” Nearly 30 years after its first season, the New York-based sitcom still has a huge following around the world. But in China, the passion the show continues to inspire among millions of fans borders on obsession.

For generations of young Chinese, the characters’ laid-back, coffee-swilling lifestyle has been a captivating model to aspire to — and an escape from the frustrations of grueling “996” jobs and pushy, overbearing parents. The sitcom has a strong claim to be China’s most popular TV import of all time. On Chinese review site Douban, “Friends” remains the highest-rated American comedy with an average score of 9.8 out of 10, above “Modern Family” (9.5), “The Big Bang Theory” (9.3), and “Sex and the City” (9.0).