A Data Scientist Found Out Who the Real Lead Character Was on “Friends”

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In 2019, it will be 15 years since the last episode of Friends was released. This sitcom became a true cultural phenomenon that even scientists became interested in. Using Friends as an example, they researched the specifics of popular television and gender stereotypes. A machine-learning engineer named Yashu Seth conducted his own study showing the characters of the sitcom in numbers and graphs.

At Bright Side, we’d like to share this curious information with you and figure out together who the actual lead character was on Friends from a scientific point of view.

According to Yashu, he got the idea to hold this study while watching one of his favorite episodes of Friends, “The One with Ross’s Tan”. Watching the characters’ hilarious performances, he started thinking, “Who actually was the lead character on Friends? Was it Ross or Rachel? Was it sarcastic Chandler? Was it the clean freak, Monica? Was it the ladies’ man Joey? Or was it everyone’s favorite singer, Phoebe?”

He decided to use data science to answer these questions. Yashu uploaded transcripts of 10 seasons into the special program. It converted the raw transcript files into a structured tabular form followed by an exploratory data analysis.

Ross and Rachel had more lines than anyone else.

The number of words said by each character

Ross and Rachel share first place, mostly thanks to their love story many people were following in the later seasons. Each of these characters said around 100,000 words. The least talkative was Phoebe who spoke 15,000 words less than those in the lead. In general, the dialogue between the characters was quite balanced and no one was prioritized.

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Chandler had the biggest number of screen appearances.

Total number of screen appearances

As we can see, Chandler with 1,400+ scenes had the most number of screen appearances. Rachel and Ross are not very far behind with around 1,370 and 1,330 appearances respectively. Phoebe had the least number of appearances as usual. It’s worth mentioning that Yashu analyzed only the scenes where the characters had lines.

Ross has the biggest number of individual screen appearances.

Total number of individual screen appearances

For this parameter, Yashu considered scenes in which only one character among the 6 was present alone or with other supporting characters. The difference is much more obvious here. Ross is a clear winner in this category who had almost 150 individual screen appearances. Rachel is not even close this time and came in fourth place. The second place went to Joey who had 130 scenes. Monica has the least screen time with around 50 scenes.

Rachel was mentioned in the episode titles more often than the others.

The number of mentions in the episode titles

Again, Rachel and Ross are the leaders in this category. Rachel had 27 episode titles that mentioned her name and Ross had 24. Monica landed in last place again with only 8 episodes mentioning her name.

Conclusion: Ross Geller is the lead character of the show.

Numbers and graphs helped Yashu to figure out that the lead character of Friends was actually Ross. He had the biggest number of individual scenes and was in the top 3 of the number of words said, general screen appearances, and other categories.

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Bonus: the lead couple of the show

Despite the very popular love story between Ross and Rachel, they don’t take the lead in this category. The winners are actually Chandler and Joey who had the most number of screen appearances than any other pair.

The main supporting character

Other than the 6 main characters, Gunther, the barista from Central Perk, had the most number of screen appearances.

The main set for Friends was…

The main set of the sitcom wasn’t Central Perk but rather, Monica’s apartment. 26% of all scenes happened there (only 16% happened in Central Perk).

Do you agree with these results? Would you place Ross as the lead character of Friends or do you have another favorite character?





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