‘Friends’ tells 51 million Americans: Thanks, Rent Control

by on May 8, 2004

On Thursday night, 51 million Americans watched the final episode of “Friends.” As the show came to a close, a message was conveyed loud and clear: if not for rent control, the show’s ten-year run would have ended years ago. The show’s stars would have been unable to pay the
city’s rising rents and would have been evicted, with each forced to move to separate residences and their community in tatters.

It was Chandler who credited rent control for the characters’ ability to afford New York City during a decade that saw uncontrolled rents skyrocket. One only wonders why the show’s producers waited so long to explain how the marginally employed friends could afford their

It has now become clear. Those criticizing the show for being unrealistic were not aware that New York City’s rent control laws allowed the characters to live in a nice, roomy apartment, and left them with enough disposable income to regularly patronize restaurants and bars. Rent control maintained the sense of community among the
characters that was at the heart of the show’s lasting appeal.

It is rare for a television sitcom to intrude into the real world of rental housing. That’s why even shows featuring low-income families do not show mice scurrying about, leaking sinks or falling plaster. Homeowners on television can have problems with plumbing or roof leaks when the plot revolves around the comedy of the lead character’s
attempts at fixing them.

But renters on television are given space and comforts at odds with the realities for tenants with similar financial resources in the large urban areas where many sitcom characters live ( Sex in the City ended prior to our site’s launch, so we missed providing a critique of the false economic realities of that show)

Let’s hope that viewers take the pro-rent control message of Friends to heart. CNN.com featured Chandler’s endorsement of rent control in the caption to its picture about the show; with 51 million viewers, Chandler’s image and quote might become staples in future rent control

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