From the grim reality of dead-end jobs to the horrors of dating, the classic comedy still hits the mark

As Monica Gellar once said to Rachel Green: "Welcome to the real world! It sucks – you're going to love it."

Could Friends be a more realistic depiction of twentysomething life? From the second Monica ushered Rachel into the world of poverty, dead-end jobs, and quarter-life crises, the series became a beacon for flailing twentysomethings everywhere. And 20 years after its 1994 debut, it still holds up. New Girl or Girls, for example, which cover the same demographic, deliver great jokes and are fantastic shows, but they're not a patch on Friends, which hits on aspects of mid-20s life that have universal appeal.

Take Rachel's fall from privileged daddy's girl to Central Perk waitress. The job was terrible and she didn't have the option of bailing to "focus on blogging". Comparatively, Chandler, Monica, and Ross, had jobs which paid well enough to sustain not only their modest lifestyles, but made up for their less-than-financially stable roommates – which became a point of contention in the season-two episode, The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant.

However, instead of an overly dramatic blowout (see Marnie and Hannah's fight in the first season of Girls), the group quarreled briefly – like most humans would – then reunited as soon as Monica got fired at the episode's end, when she found herself in the same lower income bracket that Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe had been trying to enlighten everyone about.

In fact, the constant job changeover in Friends embodies the career quest of many people in their mid-to-late 20s. Throughout the series, only Joey's acting career remained consistent (which rings true for anyone pursuing work in the arts), while the remaining five saw ups (Rachel tackles the fashion industry), downs (Chandler gets laid off and ends up in Kansas), and career changes. Even Ross – who was older and had a PhD – left the museum to teach.

Still there for you … David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Matthew Perry

Meanwhile, the series' approach to dating either served to entertain for one episode, or provided a season-long arc (one which usually ended in heartbreak, such as Monica and Richard, or Rachel and Ross). But regardless of each relationship's length, the characters still changed and grew: in season one's The One With the Blackout, Joey perpetuates "the friend zone" myth as he encourages Ross to date Rachel, only to wrestle with the consequences when he develops feelings for Rachel in seasons eight and nine.

So 20 years after it first appeared on TV, Friends is still the quintessential show about being twentysomething. It may lack smartphones and drug-fuelled clubbing, but perhaps that's why it holds up. It tells a familiar story, one of working hard, attempting success, and trying to scrape enough together to eat dinner with people we actually like.