Fifteen years after it went off air, Friends remains one of the most popular TV series in the world. Millions of people still tune in to see the reruns every day, not to mention all the people who are streaming it online. The show picks up new millennial fans all the time, and it was influential enough to cause networks to start making more series like Friends.
With Warner Bros. taking Friends back from Netflix when it launched its own streaming service, HBO Max, fans of the show were left high and dry. They needed some other shows like Friends to fill the void.
Updated on July 11th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: With HBO Max quickly becoming one of the top streaming options in the world today, there is little chance that Friends ever leaves it, so anyone who doesn’t have a subscription to HBO won’t be able to see it outside of reruns on TV. The good news is that there are countless shows like Friends that people can watch. These have been around since television started becoming popular, shows about a close-knit group of friends as they rely on each other to get through life. Whether these are friends in a working environment, friends that feel comfortable enough to just walk into each other’s homes, or friends who have a lifetime of experience together, it is always to sit down with a series like Friends.
Living Single (1993)
- Streaming now on Hulu and Sling.
Honestly, Living Single was the blueprint for shows like Friends. There was even talk about this on the reunion show that aired on HBO Max. The show premiered one year before Friends and focused on a group of all Black friends, although one difference was that this cast was mostly all female friends.
Living Single was about four girls who live in a Brooklyn brownstone and deal with their personal and professional lives. This was also a big success, as it aired for five seasons, playing out at almost the exact same time as Friends.
Cougar Town (2009)
The cast of Friends went on to have success on other TV shows and movies, and for fans of Courteney Cox, look no further than her next show, the very funny Cougar Town. Just like shows like Friends, this was about a group of friends who lived close to each other and helped each other make it through life day by day.
Friends was about young friends finding their way in the world. Cougar Town was about older friends, the word cougar meaning the older women in the series looking for love, which included Cox, Busy Phillips, and Christa Miller.
- Streaming now on Fubo, Showtime, and Spectrum on Demand.
When Friends ended, Matt LeBlanc set out to find his next gig and that went from the spinoff Joey to the superior and very entertaining Episodes. While LeBlanc couldn’t find the same success in Joey as he did in Friends, he was fantastic in Episodes, which ran from 2011 through 2017.
The sitcom, which ran on Showtime in the United States had LeBlanc star as a fictionalized version of himself – a wealthy, charming, and arrogant actor who is convinced to take the starring role in a show but struggles with his professionalism throughout.
Golden Girls (1985)
If you want a series like Friends, look at the show whose theme song actually says, “Thank you for being a friend.” This is The Golden Girls and is as just as much about friendship as Friends ever could be. While Friends is about a group of young people who lean on each other, The Golden Girls is a show about what that looks like later in life.
Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan are all seniors who remain the closest of friends, through thick and thin and through disasters that could destroy the friendship of younger people. Add in Estelle Getty as the mother of Arthur’s Dorothy, and you have a show that is a relationship goal for female friends of all ages.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013)
- Streaming now on Hulu, Peacock, DirecTV, Spectrum on Demand, Fubo, and Sling TV.
If all the characters in Friends were cops and the style of the show was a spoof of police procedurals as opposed to a traditional multi-camera sitcom, it might look something like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This series like Friends has a lovable ensemble of characters, a series of fun multi-episode storylines, and a delightfully wacky, but agreeably harmless sense of humor.
Unlike Friends, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a workplace comedy, but the camaraderie of cops means the characters are just as close as Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe.
Broad City (2014)
- Streaming now on Hulu and Comedy Central.
Revolving around two best friends in their twenties, Broad City plays like a Friends for the 2010s with a smaller ensemble. It was created by real-life best friends Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who also star as the series’ aptly named leads, Ilana and Abbi.
The series captures the essence of life in living in New York like Friends did, but with cable’s added benefit of explicit material. Across five seasons and 50 episodes, Broad City delivered endless laughs.
Happy Endings (2011)
- Streaming now on Hulu and HBO Max.
Arriving in 2011 on ABC, Happy Endings was a series like Friends in that it was a show about six friends who are trying to navigate adulthood, life, and romance in Chicago. It sounds a lot like Friends and it has a lot more in common when their lives are complicated by their own awkward and hilarious relationships with each other.
The entire series starts off with a huge moment when one member of the group leaves the other at the altar. The entire group then has to figure out how this changes their friendships and the dynamic of their group’s relationship. It lasted for two seasons.
The Office (2005)
- Streaming now on Sling TV, Peacock, and Fubo.
The exploits of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin began just one year after the Friends gang went off the air. Steve Carell anchors the series as regional manager Michael Scott, with strong support from Rainn Wilson as his intense assistant Dwight Schrute and John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer as the show’s will-they/won’t-they couple, Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly.
Just like Friends, The Office has hundreds of hilarious episodes filled with lovable characters, relatable situations, and well-matched actors.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005)
- Streaming now on Hulu, DirecTV, Fubo, FX Now, and Vice TV.
If you enjoy series like Friends for the fact that it revolves around a group of close friends who get into wacky misadventures around the city and barb each other a lot along the way, then you’ll love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Instead of hanging out at a coffee shop, these characters hang out at the Irish bar they own, Paddy’s Pub. It’s Always Sunny’s sensibility is markedly darker than that of Friends, but fans of the latter will surely enjoy the former.
Modern Family (2009)
- Streaming now on Hulu, Peacock, Fubo, Slint TV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Just like Friends back in its day, Modern Family has spent its entire run as one of the highest-rated sitcoms on the air, regularly sweeping the Emmys. Ed O’Neill leads a lovable ensemble of characters as the patriarch, Jay Pritchett, with strong support from Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family has one of the best sitcom casts of all time).
The show has a mockumentary format, but the documentary crew isn’t a part of the show’s universe like The Office; it’s more of a stylistic thing, like Parks and Rec.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)
- Streaming now on Netflix.
This Netflix comedy series from Tina Fey recently premiered its final episodes, so new viewers have the luxury of being able to watch the story play out from start to finish. There’ll be no waiting for months on end while the cast and crew shoot new episodes for viewers who go in fresh today. They can binge from the pilot episode to the series finale in a weekend if they want to.
Like Friends, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a show about a group of people struggling to make money, date people, and figure out their futures in New York City. It also has episodes that play around with the format and long-running story arcs that keep you invested. Another comparison to a series like Friends is that the cast is fantastic.
- Streaming now on Netflix.
Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David and starring the former, this is the darker, more cynical version of a series like Friends. It has the same premise of a group of buddies in New York City who get into wacky situations. In fact, a lot of the early episodes of Friends were based on spec scripts that were rejected by the producers of Seinfeld.
The characters are very different and the sensibility is very different, but due to the unique nature of life in New York City, the stories and situations are very similar. Seinfeld is more tightly plotted than Friends, too, so you might even like it more.
The Big Bang Theory (2007)
- Streaming now on HBO Max, DirecTV, Sling TV, Spectrum on Demand, and TBS.
The Big Bang Theory aired its final season in 2020. The show didn’t start off that much like Friends, but it slowly evolved into an ensemble show about a group of both men and women as they tackle friendship, work, and the dating scene.
It turned an alienating show about a bunch of geeky scientists who enjoy cosplay and video games into a much more accessible and mainstream ensemble show. The transition has had both defenders and detractors, but one thing is for sure – fans who love shows like Friends will love it.
- Streaming now on Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Fubo, Sling TV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Long before he co-created Rick and Morty with Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon created this sitcom for NBC about a Spanish study group at a community college. Fans of Friends will enjoy Community for its eclectic ensemble cast, and that cast includes all kinds of big names: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover, Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, the list goes on.
Community has an intriguing meta sense of humor, a unique and brilliant style of storytelling, and a diverse cast of characters. Fans of series like Friends, or just TV in general, will fall in love with it.
- Streaming now on Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount+.
Cheers set the template for the ensemble sitcoms that dominated the ‘90s. It was hugely popular and created a lot of the tropes that shows like Friends would go on to make iconic. Sam and Diane were the original Ross and Rachel. Instead of hanging out at a coffee shop in New York, the characters hang out at a bar in Boston, but it’s the same sort of thing.
While the characters of Friends are all the same age and going through more or less the same thing, the characters of Cheers are a bunch of different ages from all different walks of society. That’s the beauty of the bar setting: staff and customers bonding over a beer, guest characters coming in and out, etc. Cheers also offers a lot to watch, as one of the longest-running TV sitcoms in history.
Parks And Recreation (2009)
- Streaming now on Peacock, Sling TV, Fubo, and Spectrum on Demand.
What a lot of people like about series like Friends is that they are funny without being cynical. A lot of comedies these days have characters who hate each other and yell all the time. This can be funny, but it’s also exhausting. It’s nice to have a show where the characters get along and treat each other with respect and make you laugh while they have a good time.
If this is the kind of show you like, check out Parks and Recreation immediately. It’s like The Office without all the meanness. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you won’t be disappointed.
Will & Grace (1998)
This is not only a classic sitcom, but it is also a terrific social monument. This is the show that made Barack Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. Biden said, “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public [on LGBT issues] than almost anything anybody has ever done so far.”
The show was a bold move after ABC canceled Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom for having an episode where she comes out as gay. It’s about the friendship of a gay man and a straight woman, and it’s from the same era as progressive series like Friends.
Freaks And Geeks (1999)
- Streaming now on Hulu, Paramount+, and Pluto TV.
It could be argued that the dynamic of shows like Friends works so well because it splits its lead characters into two groups: the guys and the girls. Well, this nostalgic ‘80s-set dramedy from producer Judd Apatow does the same thing, separating its characters into the titular groups of freaks and geeks. They’re connected by one of the freaks being the older sister of one of the geeks.
Freaks and Geeks made stars out of Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Busy Philipps, and James Franco. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after just one season – but it’s one of the greatest seasons of television ever made.
New Girl (2011)
- Streaming now on Netflix.
While New Girl is set in Los Angeles, it does have a similar premise of a group of friends who all hang out in an apartment and talk about their love lives and their work lives. This one also has an on/off romance between two of its main characters, replacing ditzy Jennifer Aniston and intellectual David Schwimmer with adorkable Zooey Deschanel and slacker Jake Johnson.
Like shows like Friends, New Girl has both moments of hilarity that make your sides hurt and moments of drama that hit you in the feels. The show wrapped up its seventh and final season in 2018, so it’s perfect for binge-watchers.
How I Met Your Mother (2005)
- Streaming now on Prime Video and Hulu.
This show is often compared unfavorably to Friends, because on the surface, it may appear to be a rip-off. It’s about a group of friends in New York (albeit with three men and two women as opposed to three of each). Two of them have an on/off relationship, two of them are married, and one of them is a chauvinistic womanizer.
So, it may seem like it ripped off a series like Friends. But really, all it’s guilty of is taking the simplistic premise of Friends to the next level with nonlinear storytelling and experimentations with the format. It’s as if Friends had the complex writing and plotting of Arrested Development.
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