Have you ever wondered what the classic sitcom Friends would look like if you watched every episode of season one at the same time? No, not on 24 different screens — one for each episode — but all on the same screen.
Program designers Brett Bergmann and Benajmin Roberts did just that, taking every episode of Friends' first season and mashing them together. The result is a surrealist walk down memory lane, titled We Used to Be Friends.
The bizarre video above, whether the creators intended it or not, acts as a sort of meta-analysis of not just Friends, but '90s sitcoms in general.
What's striking about the video is how carnivalesque everything appears. Once you hit play, you're bombarded with an avalanche of blurry images scored to the sounds of comical dialogue and laughter. If you keep watching, there will come a point where you realize just how formulaic the show was.
Like all sitcoms, Friends' scripts were written with an almost scientific precision. In every episode, Rachel and Ross would flirt and fight, Monica would be brazenly type-A, Joey would smugly pursue women, Phoebe would say something so random that it was funny, and Chandler would offer a commentary on all of it that would never be as funny as it was in his head. This formulaic approach to storytelling comes through in the episodes' titles, each of which starts with the words "The one with/where ... " ("The One Where Joey Speaks French," "The One With the Male Nanny").
If you watch the video above closely enough, you might be able to make out individual frames, and recognize your favorite characters in their apartments or their favorite coffee spot. But the point of the video isn't to pick out the 24 different shots — the point is to see them all as the same shot.
If the mash-up offers a glimpse into Friends' formulaic approach to a half-hour comedy, it also nods to its formulaic approach to '90s culture, as reflected in the decade's sitcoms.
One longtime critique of the sitcom has been its lack of diversity, and that each punchline — regardless of the comedic genius with which it was delivered — shored up the prevailing hegemony of the '90s: white, male, heterosexual, affluent.
Oprah even leveled her own joking criticism on this front. When she had the cast on her show in 1995, she quipped, "I'd like y'all to get a black friend. Maybe I could stop by. In fact, I'm thinking about buying that apartment building next door."
With all of this in mind, have a look at the video above.