The characters on Friends were not all suicidal caffeine junkies and I’m pretty sure someone at Jezebel was drunk-blogging last night.
The proximate cause for Jez blogger Doug Barry’s bizarre miscalculations about Phoebe, Monica and Joey seems to be a Scientific American article published yesterday, which asks “how many people could you kill with all the coffee consumed on Friends?”
No TV show exemplified our love of coffee more than Friends. An appreciable percentage of the show took place in a coffee shop, and it introduced us to the monstrous 20 oz. mug. These six friends slurped more coffee than you are ever likely to see; they ingested enough caffeine over the years to kill hundreds of people.
The article goes on to lay out some assumptions about the Friends’ caffeine ingestion:
“First, given their famous mugs, we’ll assume that they drink 20 oz. coffees. Second, we’ll assume that each friend consumes maybe two of these enormous drinks each episode. Finally, we assume that this kind of coffee mainlining happened over each of Friends’ 236 episodes.”
Provided all those things, the sixsome consumed 445 gallons of coffee and a total of three pounds of caffeine over 10 seasons, it concludes.
I don’t really understand the point of this exercise—that’s a lot of coffee, I guess, but an “episode” is not a real/measurable time period and these are not real people. Regardless, if we’re tallying up the caffeine consumption of any six regular coffee drinkers over a freaking decade, this actually seems pretty low.
Doing some rough calculations, I just estimated that I will drink roughly 780 gallons of coffee over a 10-year period, given my current and previous level of consumption. And that’s just me. In 10 years, I—a real person who drinks relatively normal and non-suicidal or poison-inducing levels of coffee — will consume more coffee than Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Ross, Rachel and Monica did together over the course of Friends.
Now, if you were to take all the caffeine in all the cups of coffee that the Friends character presumptively drank on screen over the years, and divide that amount by the level of caffeine it would take to give someone caffeine poisoning in one sitting, it could poison almost 300 people.
If each episode represented a week of time, on average, then these java junkies downed nearly 3,100 gallons of coffee—enough to fill over half a freight container. This amount of joe could send over 1,900 people to the hospital.
I’m even less sure what the point of this thought exercise, but it brings us back to Barry’s post Jezebel. He takes everything I’ve just relayed to you from the article and concludes that “all the characters on Friends were suicidal caffeine junkies” who “probably should have ended (up) tweaking out at Central Perk before collapsing face-first into their giant coffee mugs.”
That … is not the appropriate takeaway at all. The takeaway (I guess?) is that if we bizarrely decided to take all potential coffee consumed by six fictional people over the course of 10 years and then, all at once, give it to people at obscene levels, we’d have enough to send 1900 people to the hospital. Maybe.
But just for the record, the amount of caffeine drank by the characters on Friends, individually, each episode, was not an unreasonable, unsafe or obscene amount. Geez. I’ll leave you with commenter Hello_My_Lover’s take:
OMG, the characters in this other show drove 60 mph – in total, they drove 23496869680 MPH over the course of the series. IF YOU DROVE THAT FAST YOU WOULD EVAPORATE!