In television, new TV shows dominate the day's water cooler chat. We talk about what happened on our favourite soaps last night, debate the merits of a new period drama heart throb or agonise over the identity of the killer or corrupt cop in the latest Sunday night crime procedural. And yet, some programmes have a longer shelf life. Some series continue to be talked about years and years after their aired. One of those is, of course, Friends.
The US sitcom is divisive, as it hasn't exactly aged well, but its influence cannot be underestimated. It had an impact on how we dress, how we socialise, how we speak (could she be any more annoying?). We've all pondered if we're more of a Monica than a Rachel. And anyone who watched the programme across its impressive ten-year run has looked within themselves and asked a question that comes up again and again: were Ross and Rachel on a break? But isn't it finally time that we admitted that, however the beloved character of Rachel Green may object, they absolutely, undoubtedly, were.
Cast your mind back to February 1997, when the episode The One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break aired. The episode title alone feels like it tells you all you need to know, but for the sake of argument let's look at the process. Ross and Rachel, having finally got together in the second season, had been having trouble. Rachel had found professional contentment for the first time, but Ross quickly became threatened by Mark, a new colleague who helped Rachel through the door. His response? To overcompensate, visiting Rachel in the office and smothering her with attention, all the while undermining Mark. It finally came to a head with a big fight - listened to from behind a door by Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey, and Rachel said the immortal words:
'Maybe we should just take a break.'
Not enough to make things clear? Even Ross wasn't sure, and initially misunderstood what Rachel was saying.
'Ok, fine. Fine. Let's take a break. Let's cool off. Let's get some frozen yoghurt or something.' But Rachel seemed resolute:
'No...' she said. 'A break from us.'
Honestly, what more do you need? They were on a break. And in Ross's defence, he never let go of the fact. It came up again and again throughout the rest of the programme's run, always causing rage or annoyance. It came up in the London episodes, when guest star Hugh Laurie, having tolerated Rachel's life story during her transatlantic flight, tells her that it was evident to him that they were on a break. And it even rears its head in the season finale when Ross, the eternal arse, brings it up when he and Rachel have their final reunion.
It's even mentioned in the trailer for the upcoming - and much anticipated - reunion, where all of the cast, except Matt LeBlanc, tell James Corden that, yes, Ross and Rachel were on a break.
And they're right. They were on a break. Rachel said that she wanted a break, Ross exhibited a denial or evasion of her proposal, and she repeated it. Do we therefore forgive Ross's behaviour mere hours later? No. Sleeping with the first woman he meets just because he is technically unattached shows a real disrespect for Rachel and suggests that he never took their relationship seriously enough. But we are not here to talk about his behaviour. Ross always behaved badly. He was the absolute worst. But in this one case, Rachel is wrong. They were on a break. And no arguments written on eighteen pages - front and back - can change that.
Now, please, for the love of God, let's stop talking about it.