While the story writing was outstanding for its time, there is one critique that regularly comes up. Most people assume that the prices of apartments are way too high for the lifestyles of the Friends cast to live that way. But, is this really true?
Though most of the show was shot in California, Friends was supposed to take place in New York City. More specifically, it took place in Greenwich Village. The building that most people associate with the show is 90 Bedford Street.
The Bedford Street location was the building that held the Central Perk coffee shop, not to mention where all of the gang lived at one point or another. It’s such a staple of the show that people still take photos in front of it when they tour New York City.
It all depends on the time they moved in and the overall situation they were in. Today, getting most of the two-bedroom apartments in an area of Greenwich Village would cost between $4500 to $8500 a month. This puts them out of reach for most people, unless it’s split four ways.
However, the 1990s were a different time. There were plenty of rent-stabilized apartments in Greenwich Village during this time. Moreover, the show explained that Monica’s apartment only cost $200 and was a rent-controlled apartment. At one point, her fancier apartment was also claimed to be inherited.
During that era, all of the older buildings were rent-controlled. However, most of the characters were unemployed on and off. Monica shared the apartment she had with Rachel, who was a waitress. The rest of the crew also boasted relatively modest jobs through most of the series’s run.
If you look at Monica and Rachel’s apartment, the square footage was expected to be between 1100 to 1500 square feet. This puts the rent around $6000 to $8000, according to most modern-day estimates. While you could explain away the affordability with rent control, it’s still not realistic.
Taking a look at Joey and Chandler’s apartment doesn’t yield much better results. Their home was a little less historical and a little less spacious. However, it would still cost around $4,500 to get an apartment of comparable size in Greenwich Village today. So, these two wouldn’t be able to afford rent, either.
Ross and Rachel’s apartment was also around the same size, though it might not have had as many amenities. Estimates for it range between $4,500 to $5,500 a month. Unfortunately, those two would need to have at least two other roomies to afford living there.
If the look of those apartments seemed really attractive to native New Yorkers, it’s by design. The average apartment in Greenwich is only 975 square feet. Almost all of the apartments rented (or owned) by the Friends gang were well over 1100 square feet on average.
There were occasional apartments featured in the show that were allegedly one-bedroom. Even then, they were roughly the same as an average apartment. This made the Friends apartment setup laughably unreal in every possible way.
Of course, they did! It was an ongoing joke about the show, apparently. Writers tried to explain away the unusually low apartment pricing by saying stuff was inherited or rent-controlled. Sometimes they’d say that the characters used savings, or whatever, to afford rent.
The truth is that the apartments had to be big. Otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to film scenes there without people feeling like the walls were closing in on them. To ensure the well-being of actors and the actual storylines, they decided to get a little bit more creative with their work.
Remember when they had characters suddenly switching up their apartments or carrying up half-sawed furniture? Yeah, that doesn’t actually fly in New York City. Switching apartments with friends who the landlord didn’t approve can get you an immediate eviction order in most buildings.
If you’ve ever wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the place where the gang hung out, there’s some good news and bad news. The good news is that there is a Central Perk that you can visit in New York City. They even have the same cups used in the show!
However, there’s a bad side to this too. Unfortunately, Central Perk doesn’t really look like the set on the show. So, if you were hoping to sit where Rachel and Ross chatted it up, you’re out of luck. The real Central Perk looks nothing like that.
Of course, there have been pop-ups that have recreated the set of Friends in the past. So, who knows? Maybe you might be able to catch another pop-up in the future.