SITCOM Friends turns 25 this week, yet it is still a ratings phenomenon – thanks in large part to an army of new fans who were not even born when it first aired on September 22, 1994.
With Netflix making all ten seasons available to stream last year, a new generation have fallen in love with the six friends – stuffy Ross (David Schwimmer), obsessive Monica (Courteney Cox), sarcastic Chandler (Matthew Perry), glamorous Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), not-so-bright Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and kooky Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow).
Iconic sitcom Friends turns 25 this week and thanks to Netflix, a new generation have been able to fall in love with the six friends too[/caption]
Set around their apartments in New York and coffee shop Central Perk, and with each episode called “The One With/Where . . .”, this year it was voted the most popular TV show for ages five to 16 in the UK.
That is a whole lot more people getting theme tune I’ll Be There for You, performed by one-hit wonders The Rembrandts, stuck in their heads.
To mark the birthday, pop culture historian Saul Austerlitz delved behind the scenes for new book Still Friends.
He said: “I wanted to tell the story of a show that had been created in an entirely different media universe – before streaming, before #MeToo, before the War On Terror – and understand the roots of its success.
“I hoped to understand how Friends had achieved its remarkable success, and how it had sustained that appeal across decades.”
Here, Saul brings you 25 little-known facts he has dug up . . .
Friends was originally going to be called Insomnia Cafe, after the coffee shop Central Perk was based on[/caption]
1) Friends co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman met as students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where they were in Tennessee Williams’ play Camino Real – Marta as a prostitute and David as a street waif.
2) Early working titles included Insomnia Cafe, Bleecker Street, Six Of Us, Friends Like These, Across The Hall and NBC Pilot Which Still Needs A Title.
3) R.E.M singer Michael Stipe was approached to perform the theme tune as a duet with American singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant – but he turned down the offer.
4) The look of the show’s Central Perk coffee shop was inspired by Insomnia Cafe in LA, where creators David and Marta and production designer Greg Grande were regulars.
5) Before the premiere, David called Danny Jacobson, creator of US sitcom Mad About You, to ask if Lisa’s character Phoebe and Ursula, the character she also played on Mad About You, could be made twin sisters in Friends. He said yes.
James Michael Tyler was a barista in LA and was asked to stand in the background of Central Perk, but of course he later went on to secure a regular (speaking) role as Gunther[/caption]
Co-creator David called Danny Jacobson, creator of US sitcom Mad About You, to ask if Phoebe could have a twin[/caption]
6) Director James Burrows liked the wooden post and beam in Monica and Rachel’s kitchen as visual decoration. The show dropped it after the first season but James brought it back when he returned to direct in later seasons.
7) Monica’s OCD behaviour was partially inspired by the writers catching a glimpse of Courteney straightening the furniture in her pretend apartment after the other actors had left.
8) The over-the-top character of Janice – Chandler’s one-time girlfriend – was inspired by an ex of one of the writers who had bought him a lavish Christmas present months before the festive season though they had only gone out a handful of times.
9) James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, was a barista at Los Angeles coffee shop the Bourgeois Pig when he was hired to stand in the background of Central Perk and pull the levers of the espresso machine. It would be two seasons until he received his first line – or indeed a name.
10) Los Angeles hairdressers in the mid-1990s reported that as many as 40 per cent of their clients came in requesting “the Rachel”. An estimated 11million women in the UK also had that style, although Jennifer called it: “The ugliest haircut ever.”
An estimated 11million women in the UK got a ‘Rachel’ hairdo, even though Jennifer described it as ‘the ugliest haircut ever’[/caption]
11) TV network NBC hired 104 operators to field complaint calls after episode The One With The Lesbian Wedding. They only ended up with two gripes that evening.
12) Lisa had been cast as producer Roz Doyle in comedy Frasier but was fired after struggling in rehearsals. The same week she got the audition for Friends.
13) Owen Wilson was lined up for a cameo until the writers saw an interview in which he revealed his biggest fault was: “Giving writers a hard time.”
14) For the scene where Joey puts on all of Chandler’s clothes, the costume designer sewed many of the items into a zippered two-piece costume for Matt to wear.
15) The Oxford English Dictionary credits Friends with one of the earliest recorded usages of the phrase, “Going commando”, meaning wearing no pants. Joey says it after doing lunges wearing all Chandler’s clothes.
The costume designer created a zippered two-piece costume for Matt to wear when Joey puts on all of Chandler’s clothes[/caption]
Richard Branson wanted to be in Friends so badly that he offered to fly 75 cast and crew to London[/caption]
16) Richard Branson offered to fly 75 cast and crew to London on his Virgin Atlantic airline to film an episode as long as he was in the show. He got to play a pushy souvenir salesman in the fourth-season finale, which was set in London.
17) Ross saying the wrong name during his vows as he weds Emily (Helen Baxendale) was inspired by actor David accidentally saying “Rachel” while going through his lines in rehearsal.
18) Co-creator David asked NBC to skip showing a new episode one week because he was not happy with what they had produced. NBC said no and showed The One Where Rachel Smokes anyway.
19) David ad-libbed the line “tastes like feet” as Ross during the scene in which everyone tries Rachel’s “beef and peas and whipped cream trifle”.
20) Episode The One Where Rachel Tells Ross had to be re-edited after September 11 to remove a subplot in which Chandler joked about bombs in an airport security line.
That moment when Ross says ‘Rachel’ was inspired by actor David who accidentally said it while going through his lines in rehearsal[/caption]
21) NBC was so desperate to cast Jennifer in Friends that bosses sabotaged the show Muddling Through, which she was contracted to star in. They ran previously unaired TV adaptations of Danielle Steel romance novels at the exact time Muddling Through was on to hit its ratings. The adaptations stole the other show’s audience and NBC got their woman.
22) When David was first approached to play uptight professor Ross he refused, as he didn’t want to do more TV. Then he read the script and relented.
23) Courtney was originally pegged to play Rachel but pushed to audition for Monica – and landed the role.
24) Monica and Joey were originally going to be the central couple but when show bosses saw David and Jennifer had an “indescribable mixture of attraction and loathing and tenderness and brutishness”, Friends suddenly became all about Ross and Rachel.
25) Some of the plot lines were mined straight from the writers’ lives. Writer Adam Chase was once persuaded to buy a $600 pair of leather trousers by a beautiful sales assistant. That turned into a gag for Ross.
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Courtney originally auditioned for the role of Rachel but pushed to try for Monica[/caption]
Shockingly, Monica and Joey were meant to be the central couple, not Ross and Rachel[/caption]
Some plot lines were actually inspired by the writers’ lives – like Ross’s iconic leather trousers[/caption]
- Still Friends: 25 Years Of The TV Show That Defined An Era, by Saul Austerlitz (Trapeze, £12.99), is out on Thursday.
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