The human race was forced to ask itself whether it could be even more plunged into a realm of existential and palpable dread this week, as former NBC flotation device Friends left Netflix’s streaming library on New Year’s Day. The move comes ahead of the sitcom’s re-emergence on HBO Max when it launches on May 1, but that still leaves our species suffering through a five-month interregnum in which all mortal laws are set to break down while anarchy reigns supreme, and also, presumably, streams of The Office go way, way up. (At least, until that one departs Netflix, too, later this year.)
The streaming status of Friends—perhaps the quintessential mindless TV comfort food—has long been a topic of discussion in the online sphere, including that time that Netflix paid $100 million to maintain streaming rights to the show for one more precious year. But no longer: Warner Bros. is leveraging whatever assets it can to get people to sign on for its relatively expensive ($15 a month) Max service, and that includes the lure of watching a sextet of pretty people live in proximity to a monkey for longer than you might expect. And while—as THR notes—the show’s absence from a subscription streaming service doesn’t stop you from watching it on DVD, or buying episodes from a digital storefront, or turning on a TV and waiting for one of its inevitable reruns to appear, or just sitting out in public until people around you start reciting episodes verbatim, the inability to just push a button and make Friends be there is clearly a crushing and damning slight to the human soul.
But hey: Frasier’s still on Hulu, at least! Maybe 2020 is the year you get really into Frasier. Stranger things have happened, although none immediately spring to mind.