Could Chinese TV fans be more in love with "Friends"?
The Emmy-winning sitcom ran for 10 seasons -- 1994-2004 -- in America, but it's still such a viewer favorite in Beijing that one "Friends" devotee has opened a café exactly modeled on the TV series' Central Perk.
And the café has already proven to be so popular that a second location is in the works.
Central Perk Beijing's owner, Du Xin, refers to himself as the Gunther of his operation (after the bleached-blond proprietor of the show's café), right down to his favorite "Friends" character -- Jennifer Aniston's Rachel, of course.
"I'm crazy about 'Friends,'" Du told NPR. "For me, it's like a religion. It's my life."
And he's not alone in his affection for -- obsession with? -- the show. Visitors to the Beijing hot spot watch reruns of the series and long for the carefree lifestyles of the TV New Yorkers, with their freedom from major family influence and their more laid-back attitude toward sex.
The Chinese "Friends" fans also reportedly enjoy seeing a world depicted in which the young adults are not as stressed or competitive as Chinese young people are.
"I learned a lot from 'Friends,'" Du says. "How to treat friends, girlfriends, my wife, how to be generous, how to be gentle." He says he thinks American friendships, at least as shown on the show, are more pure than those in China, which are more about "how to take advantage."
Fans who visit Central Perk Beijing snack on "Friends"-related foods, like cheesecake, once the focus of a silly plot in which Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Rachel stole the delicious dessert from their neighbor. They also use the show as a way to learn English.
Hard-core fans can venture next door, where Du spent six months building an exact replica of Chandler and Joey's (Matt LeBlanc) apartment, featuring a foosball table, copies of the guys' beloved "Baywatch" DVDs, and, most impressively, a replica of Joey's shoddily built TV cabinet.
"I think their lives are very free, very happy. They can do whatever they like. For Chinese people, the influence of our families is quite big," says fan Qiu Yu, echoing Du's comments. "So we yearn for that lifestyle."
And here in America, we still yearn for those rent-controlled NYC apartments the friends lived in.