It is possible to regard Friends as a spinoff of the sitcom Mad About You, as the character Phoebe Buffay on Friends is the twin sister of Ursula the waitress on Mad About You.
The initial premise of the series has "the friends" in their mid-twenties. Monica Geller and Phoebe Buffay stay together in Monica's apartment. Chandler Bing is looking for a new roomie, Rachel runs away from her wedding altar and later moves in with her high-school friend Monica. Joey Tribbiani becomes Chandler's new roomie; interestingly, Chandler wasn't too keen to have Joey move in with him, but the guy who he chose "never shows up" because Mr. Heckles, who lives in the apartment immediately below Monica and Phoebe (and subsequently Monica and Rachel), falsely claims he is Chandler's new roommate, causing Chandler's real new roommate to leave. The friends hang out a lot at the nearby coffee shop, Central Perk.
Ross, or rather "Dr. Geller" (Monica's brother) is a paleontologist and works at a nearby museum. Chandler is a data processer for his company. Joey is a stereotypical struggling New York actor. Rachel was a spoiled Daddy's girl who later works as a waitress in the coffeeshop, so she could be more independent and stand on her own two feet. Monica is a chef, who for the first several seasons struggles to get her big "break."
The characters have developed and grown since the show's inception, which probably has contributed greatly to its popularity. The character of Rachel Green, for instance, began the show as a bratty girl who has just broken off from the financial support of her family. By season 10 she has worked as a personal shopper Bloomingdale's and is now a buyer for Ralph Lauren, has been married and divorced, and is the mother of a baby girl.
Much of the show's plotline has revolved around the off-again, on-again romance of characters Ross and Rachel. The writers have successfully (and believably) brought them in and out of a romantic relationship with great humor and strife.
Nine seasons of the show have been broadcast, and a tenth season was in doubt. But the tenth season has recently been commissioned at a fee of US$10,000,000 per episode. Currently (2003), the main cast members earn $1,000,000 an episode.
It has been revealed that Matt LeBlanc has signed a contract to continue playing Joey in a sitcom of that name starting in Fall 2005.
Main cast members: