On this day in 2004, NBC wrapped-up one of TV's most popular sitcoms, Friends with an emotional one-hour finale, watched by an estimated audience of 51.1 million people.
"The genius of Friends," wrote National Post journalist Jason Chow, "was in its construction: Four-fifths sitcom, one-fifth soap opera."
If you missed the 236th (and last) episode, Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) got together. Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) moved with their twins to the suburbs. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) married Mike and loveable Joey (Matt LeBlanc) went on to his own spinoff series.
Hyped to the max, the final episode was shown on a big screen in Times Square. Filmed in January 2004, the cast members watched the final episode together in Los Angeles. "It was overwhelming - fulfilling, satisfying, funny, sad," said LeBlanc.
"It was really emotional," agreed costar Perry. "I pride myself on being a real man, but I shed a few tears."
NBC charged a whopping $2 million per 30-second advertising spot in the finale which ended with the gang putting their keys on the counter and going off for a last cup of coffee at Central Perk as Jefferson Airplane's Embryonic Journey played.
As finales go, Friends was NOT history's most popular. That title goes to M*A*S*H*, seen by 105 million viewers in 1983. The final Cheers in 1993 pulled in 80.4 million viewers. Seinfeld in 1998 drew 76.2 million.
Now it's on to syndication and cult myth...
"Friends will be remembered as the show that made America aware that being in your 20s is really being in the prime of life," said Professor Elayne Rapping, of the University of Buffalo. "Friends stands out as a sign that we are now living in a culture where youth rules."
Make each ending matter.