There's a lot of criticism about the TV show Friends. It had flaws, particularly around minority representation. There were no significant gay or trans characters except for Chandler's dad, who was ambiguously one or the other and typically only mentioned for a laugh. There were no significant black characters, except for Charlie, who was a one-season love interest for Ross and then briefly for Joey, and the value of her character as black representation is questionable. Ross and Monica, one third of the main characters, were Jewish, but that was only ever mentioned to serve a punchline. The most exotic accent any significant character had was British.
Here's the thing, though. Friends was the show every grown up watched when I was coming of age. And past seasons were syndicated on local broadcast stations in the afternoon, so catching up on the earlier episodes that aired before I got into it basically took zero effort. And it really was quite funny.
When I rewatch the show today, the comedy holds up. Sure, the male characters can be a little homophobic sometimes, but that's how guys were in the 90s, and it's not like most of the jokes are drawn from that. And minority representation is basically non-existent, but that doesn't stop me from laughing.
Most importantly, the characters feel like personal friends I've known for twenty years. The blossoming relationships, proposals, breakups, fights, births, deaths, and memorable comedic situations feel like they happened in my real-life circle of friends, and I'm sure I'm far from the only viewer to feel that way. Watching the reruns is like reminiscing with real friends about the times that brought us close: the good, the bad, and the outrageously funny.
Goddamnit I'm crying from writing this. You can point out its flaws, but this show means a lot to a lot of people, and you're never going to convince us the bad outweighs the good.