Magoosh English Lesson: Friends

Welcome to the next lesson in this series of Magoosh’s free English classes

Goals:

  • Learn TV vocabulary
  • Explore a hit TV show from the 1990s
  • Review a grammar topic

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Time: Approximately 15 minutes

 

Friends

In late 1993, TV writers/producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman were working hard to create a new TV series after their latest sitcom was cancelled. Their idea: a show about six twentysomethings living life in Manhattan. That simple concept would turn into the international sensation known as Friends.

Whether you were born after the series ended in 2004 or even born before tv was broadcast in color, nearly everyone in the world has heard of Friends. But if you haven’t, let me introduce you to Joey, Chandler, Phoebe, Monica, Ross, and Rachel. They’re the six main characters featured in this show that centers around their daily lives. It’s a show about romances, career issues, and other common life happenings that unfold in comedic ways.

Originally, the show was titled Insomnia Cafe because many scenes in the show are set in the group’s favorite coffee shop Central Perk. The president of NBC (National Broadcasting Company) wanted the show to convey the essence of Generation X and how people of that generation bonded. But the creators wanted a show that was for everyone and eventually that’s how it was written.

So in early 1994, they changed the title and wrote a pilot for the show Friends Like Us, which was eventually shortened to just Friends. The casting director for Friends had a pool of over a thousand actors auditioning for the six main roles on the show. Eventually, the pool was narrowed to just 75 actors and then to 3 or 4 for each part. After one final round of auditions, they chose the final six. 

The show had a rough start in the first season. Many critics felt the cast was likable, but the characters were underdeveloped and unrefined. It wasn’t until the third season when the writers and actors found their chemistry that the show became one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history. Today, Friends is still aired in syndication and can be watched on many TV streaming services.

Be sure to join us for our next lesson, where we’ll explore the popularity and the cultural impact of Friends.

 

Word Focus

  • Twentysomething – (noun) – Group of people in the age range from 20 – 29

I thought about going to the party but changed my mind when I realized there would be nothing but twentysomethings there.

  • Scene – (noun) – The setting and events that happen continuously in one place.

The third scene of the last act takes place in the house of the killer.

  • Generation X – (noun) – The generation of people born after the Baby Boomers and before the Millenials. 

Generation X includes people born in the years roughly grouped from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s.

  • TV Pilot – (noun) – A single episode of a show (usually the first episode) used to sell the show to a TV network.

TV pilots are usually shot in the spring and sold to the network executives over the summer in hopes of becoming a show in the fall.

  • Casting Director – (noun) – Person on a movie or tv show responsible for finding, auditioning, and hiring (casting) actors for the production.

Sometimes casting directors have to watch thousands of auditions to find the right person for a role.

  • Audition – (noun) – A form of interview for a performance artist (actor, dancer, singer) to display their talents and abilities.

Professional actors audition for hundreds of roles every year in hopes of landing just one job.

  • Chemistry – (noun) – A harmonious or effective relationship between people working together.

We had to make some changes in the workplace because the office chemistry was bad.

  • Syndication – (noun) – The sale of a series of tv programs to a network for redistribution (broadcast).

The ultimate money-making goal of any tv show is to eventually go into syndication on other networks.

 

Grammar Center

Look at these two sentences from the above passage:

But the creators wanted a show that was for everyone and eventually that’s how it was written.

 

It wasn’t until the third season when the writers and actors found their chemistry that the show became one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history.

The word ‘that’ is one of the most grammatically functional words in the English language, so in this lesson we’re going to review the many uses of this versatile (adaptable to many different functions) word.

 

Pronoun

Most often, ‘that’ is used as a pronoun. In this instance we use it to identify something or someone:

  • That’s her boyfriend standing over there.

To refer to something previously said:

  • That’s what I was talking about!

To introduce a clause used in identification. Often in place of which, who, whom or when.

  • But the creators wanted a show that was for everyone…
  • But the creators wanted a show which was for everyone…

 

Determiner

Secondly, ‘that’ is used as a determiner to reference a noun. It’s similar in usage to words like: a, the, or every.

In this situation, it can be used to identify a specific person or something previously mentioned or understood.

  • Look at that woman over there.
  • I was living in London at that time.

 

Adverb

That’ can be used to indicate a degree of something.

  • I didn’t think the drive would be that far.

 

Conjunction

Lastly, ‘that’ can be used as a conjunction to introduce another subordinate clause. You saw this in the above passage:

  • It wasn’t until the third season when the writers and actors found their chemistry that the show became one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history.

Please bookmark this lesson if you need a reference for the uses of ‘that’ and for more information and tips on other English grammar subjects, be sure to visit the Magoosh English Speaking blog!

 

Quiz

1. Which statement best identifies the main idea of the above passage?

A. Friends found its chemistry in the third season.
B. Friends conveyed the essence of Generation X.
C. Friends was a hit TV show that went through a process to become the show we know today.
D. Friends is a show about romances, career issues, and other common life happenings that unfold in comedic ways.

 

2. The purpose of the above passage is best described as:

A. Informative
B. Narrative
C. Descriptive
D. Persuasive

 

3. Read this sentence from the passage: 

The casting director for Friends had a pool of over a thousand actors auditioning for the six main roles on the show.

Based on the context, what does the word pool mean in this sentence?

A. A swimming pool
B. An arrangement
C. A bet
D. A group

 

4. Which word is the best synonym for the word chemistry as used in the passage and defined in the word focus?

A. Plan
B. Unity
C. Pattern
D. Organization

 

5. Read this excerpt from the passage: 

…and eventually that’s how it was written.

What is the grammatical use of ‘that’ in this excerpt?

A. Pronoun
B. Determiner
C. Adverb
D. Conjunction

 

6. Read this sentence from the passage:

Originally, the show was titled Insomnia Cafe because many scenes in the show are set in the group’s favorite coffee shop Central Perk.

Which two verb tenses are used in this sentence?

A. Simple Past and Present continuous
B. Past Continuous and Simple Present
C. Simple Past and Simple Present
D. Past Perfect and Simple Present

 

Answers:

  1. C
  2. A
  3. D
  4. B
  5. A
  6. C

 

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