10 crazy facts about the tv sitcom Friends
Years ago, throngs of fans would huddle around their tv sets to watch six generation X-ers who always managed to be “there for you” through thick and thin—and they’re still “there” for all of us that binge watch the series ten years after its finale.
Debuting in 1994 and spanning 10 iconic seasons, Friends is a series that few have been able to parallel. Equal parts humor, sentimentality and the catalyzer of a smorgasbord of catchphrases (“WE WERE ON A BREAK”, “Oh. My. God.” “Could this be any more [insert person, place or thing in the tone of Chandler Bing here]), fans of the sitcom still enjoy reminiscing about their favorite moments 20 years after its premier in the early 90s.
Throughout all the memorable moments, hookups, breakups and fountain dancing (more on that in a bit), there was a litany of things happening behind the scenes (and even on set) that fans even the most avid of fans were never aware of. From casting switch-ups, to budget issues leading and even Bruce Willis losing a bet to Matthew Perry, here are the top 10 crazy facts about the beloved TV sitcom, Friends.
Joey and Monica Were Supposed to Be the Main Couple
As all of us hardcore Friends fans know, the main couple of the show that pulled at our heartstrings and demanded our attention with their on-again, off-again romance throughout the series was Ross and Rachel. I can remember when these two stole my heart right from the pilot as we all watched Rachel—who had moved in with Monica after going all runaway bride on her dentist fiancee—clamor with the sudden 180 her life had taken as Ross awkwardly (i.e., adorably) tried to compose himself around a girl he had had a crush on since high school.
However, unbeknownst to many, that coupling was actually never supposed to happen or even considered by the writers before the series aired. The creators decided to begin a romantic storyline arc between Ross and Rachel when they saw the chemistry between David Schimmer and Jennifer Aniston.
Originally, the main romantic storyline was meant to be between Joey and Monica, but that never developed, thank goodness. The character of Monica had a string of romances on the show, including a notable storyline that involved her and guest star Tom Selleck, who played ophthalmologist Richard Burke. The chemistry between Cox and Selleck was undeniable, and their character’s age difference—along with the fact that Richard knew Monica because he was a friend of her father’s—added to the intrigue of the coupling, and a slew of hilariously uncomfortable situations for both. Monica and Richard would later break up (it was so heartbreaking!) during Barry and Mindy’s wedding in season two due to the fact that Richard did not want to have children and Monica did.
All is well that ends well, however. In the season 4 finale, it is revealed that Monica and Chandler have what was meant to be a one night stand in London during Ross’s wedding to Emily (who we all disliked of course because Ross is meant to be with Rachel, duh). As we all remember (or if you don’t, you seriously need to do some binge watching), this hook up led to several more hookups, a series of hilarious incidents where Chandler and Monica attempt to hide their relationship and the eventual reveal of their relationship to all of the gang. The two went on to become engaged, get married and ended up adopting twins by the series’ end. Chandler and Monica forever, am I right??
Courtney Cox Turned Down the Role of Rachel
It’s hard to imagine the role of Rachel being played by anyone other than Jennifer Aniston. However, the role was originally supposed to go to Courtney Cox. Cox turned down the role because she said she preferred to play Monica, because she felt that character was “stronger”. Thank goodness she and the creators went that route, because Cox as Monica was absolute perfection! Heck, could you honestly picture any of the cast members playing another character?
Jennifer Aniston was also the last person to be cast. At the time, she was still a relatively unknown actress, but that changed rapidly with the success of Friends. Today, Aniston is considered an A-list celebrity and movie star, who has even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Opening Credits Weren’t Shot in New York
The opening credits to Friends may be as iconic as the show itself. With the feel-good 90’s track I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts playing in the background (which was actually co-written by Friends’ creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane), we see the entire cast dancing with umbrellas in a fountain that appears to be in New York City—just as I finished writing that sentence, I realized how weird that concept sounds but somehow they made it work. Apparently, the scene was never shot in a park in New York City, but on a Warner Bros. lot. Go figure. According to IMDB, the whole thing took place during a 4 a.m. shoot where the water was kept warm via a heated pump.
Oh well. I still love the credits all the same and—to this day—can’t pass a fountain without the urge to have a splashy dance party in it. That would probably have me arrested, though, so I’ll continue to resist. While we’re on the subject of splashy dance parties, however, I’d like to note that an unexpected Hollywood honcho seems to enjoy engaging in them himself—and his said splashy dance party lines up perfect with the Friends theme song.
Coincidence? I think not. Check out a mashup of Kanye West splashing around in a lake in Armenia with The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You” playing in the background here.
Many People Originally Thought Chandler Was Gay
Could Chandler Bing be any more heterosexual? Apparently that wasn’t a widely held sentiment. Lisa Kudrow was surprised during the show’s first table read to learn that Chandler wasn’t gay, as that was her original interpretation of him. During the show’s early days, many fans speculated about Chandler’s sexual orientation as well.
No, Chandler wasn’t gay, just a master of sarcasm to a somewhat flamboyant extent at times. Of course, to quote another popular 90s sitcom, there would be “nothing wrong with that” if he was, but then we wouldn’t have had the glorious romance of Monica and Chandler and the grating yet hilarious story arc between Chandler and his on-again off-again girlfriend, Janice.
Bruce Willis Guest Starred For Free After Losing a Bet
In season 6, Bruce Willis guest starred in a few episodes as the father of Ross’s girlfriend (and former student), Elizabeth. Willis’s character, Paul Stevens, and Ross had a testy relationship due to the fact that he disapproved of the age difference between Ross and Elizabeth. Paul went on to have a brief relationship with Rachel, and during that time, Ross is able to garner somewhat of a truce with Paul. In Willis’s most memorable episode, “The One Where Paul’s The Man”, Ross and Elizabeth attempt to hide their relationship from Paul and escape for a weekend at Elizabeth’s grandmother’s cottage, not knowing that Paul and Rachel are arriving that same weekend. While hiding under a bed from Paul, Ross catches Paul giving himself a pep talk about Rachel in a hilarious sequence where he starts singing to himself, flexing, and calling himself “the man” and a “love machine”. When Paul catches wind that Ross was privy to this, he no longer makes threat against Ross’s and Elizabeth’s relationship.
Willis was certainly a memorable guest star, but what many people don’t know is that Willis wasn’t paid a dime for his stint due to losing a bet with Matthew Perry, who starred alongside Willis in The Whole Nine Yards. The story goes that Perry bet Willis that the film would debut at number one in the box office, and Willis disagreed. Lo and behold, the film hit number one and for losing the bet Willis agreed to appear on Friends and donate his would-be paycheck to charity.
Jennifer Aniston Almost Didn’t Appear In The Last Season
Ok, if you’re going to have a season of Friends without Rachel, you might as well just shut the whole thing down. In the words of Chandler Bing, could the series be any more terrible without Rachel making a substantial appearance in each episode?
Moreover, you’d probably have to shut the whole thing down if any of the cast members couldn’t appear in a season. There has been various sitcoms with ensemble casts, and on many of these sitcoms cast members would invariably leave after garnering movie fame. With some shows this led to an almost instant dismantling of the series’ magic (um, hi, The Office and That 70’s Show) but somehow these shows would still manage to trudge on for at least a few more seasons.
That being said, with a show where each member of the ensemble was so intimately conducive to every episode and storyline (sidebar: Chandler and Phoebe were originally going to supporting cast members but thank goodness the creators decided to forego that route), the show wouldn’t have been able to sustain its magic or watchability without each character being involved.
Still, after several seasons, Aniston had garnered substantial fame thanks to movie success and a high profile marriage to movie star Brad Pitt. In an interview, she spoke of her hesitations to continue the series after it had spanned almost a decade.
“I had a couple issues I was dealing with,” she said. “I wanted it to end when people still loved us and we were on a high. And then I was also feeling like, ‘How much more of Rachel do I have in me?’”
Obviously, Aniston agreed to a final season and we were given one last Ross/Rachel hoorah. Spoiler alert: Ross and Rachel end up together because of course they ended up together. It would have been a crime if they hadn’t!
“The One Where’s No One’s Ready” Was Based Due to Budget Issues
In “The One Where No One’s Ready” from season 3, the episode centers on all of the friends having separate issues (albeit, hilarious ones) getting ready for Ross’s benefit:
- After her breakup with Richard, Monica is experiencing severe anxiety over a message she left on his answering machine and this anxiety is only furthered when she attempts to access and erase the message. Her efforts lead to her accidentally replacing Richard’s outgoing voicemail with said message. It’s so cringe-worthy but fantastic.
- Rachel can’t pick an outfit to save her life, which ends in Ross becoming so frustrated that he snaps at her and Rachel almost foregoes the event entirely. It isn’t until Ross offers to drink a cup of rendered chicken fat Monica—a chef—had been storing in the fridge that the two kiss and make up.
- Phoebe is the only one dressed and ready to go, until a giant glob of hummus besmirches her gown and she and the other girls attempt to clean the spot and cover it up. Phoebe finally decides on covering the stain with a heinous oversized Christmas bow, which Ross gasps at initially but then accepts as perfectly suitable in an attempt to get the gang out the door in time.
- Chandler and Joey get into a tiff, which results in a hilarious war where Joey steals the cushions from the couch Chandler is sitting on, which Chandler refers to as the “essence” of the couch. Chandler retaliates by taking Joey’s underwear, and being that Joey is going “commando” at that moment, he is livid and feels unable to change for the event (he “rented” a tux, and isn’t willing to “go commando in another man’s fatigues”). Joey won’t go down without a fight, and responds to the confiscation of his underwear by doing “the exact opposite” to Chandler, which is…wearing all of Chandler’s clothes?
All scenes—minus a very brief scene at the end which shows the gang at the event they have spent the majority of the episode getting ready for—in this episode take place in Monica’s apartment. Many wouldn’t have given a second thought to this setup, being that the storyline was cause for everyone to congregate in one place. However, the scenes of the episode were concentrated in one area due to the fact that—at the times—the show’s budget was not allowing for shooting in different locations or the addition of guest stars.
Traits of Chandler and Joey were Based on Suggestions from Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc
Joey and Chandler were best friends for the series’ entirety, and roommates for several seasons. Their dynamic was complimented by their differences in personality—Joey was able to be suave with the ladies but arguably dim-witted at times, while Chandler was sharp and clever, but also admittedly awkward around women.
These traits weren’t based solely on the imaginations of the creators, but actually suggestions from Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc. In fact, Matthew Perry wanted to weave awkwardness into the character of Chandler Bing because he himself felt awkward around women. Aww!
That awkwardness may have dissipated following Friends’ success, as Perry went on to date some Hollywood A-listers, including Julia Roberts!
Gunther Was On The Show Way Before Being Given Any Lines or a Name
Gunther became quite the breakout character, but James Michael Taylor actually wasn’t a working actor when cast. He was a barista at a coffee shop, and it was that very profession that got his foot in the door.
He told Buzzfeed in 2014, ”I had a job at a coffee shop called the Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood, which is still around and one of the last independent coffee shops that hasn’t been taken over or whatnot. I was one of their first baristas–I think I started there in 1990 or so.”
Assistant director Joel Wang vetted Taylor to be on set as an unnamed background character to mime working an espresso machine “…just so it would look authentic.” It wasn’t until season 2 that Taylor’s character was given the name “Gunther” or that he even got to have any lines! Gunther quickly became a fan favorite, particularly when the character’s obvious infatuation with Rachel was introduced. Of course, Rachel never reciprocated (or even seemed very aware of) Gunther’s feelings, but it was certainly fun to watch.
For the first four seasons, Taylor maintained his day job as a barista, because he wasn’t sure if he would remain a permanent fixture on the show. Once it became clear that he was, he quit graciously, feeling it wasn’t “right” to take shifts from fellow baristas when he realized he had a steady gig on Friends.
Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc Hated the Brief Joey and Rachel Romance
Ok brace yourself, because I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here. I didn’t HATE the concept of Joey and Rachel. That’s not to say I loved it, or even liked it all that much, but I wasn’t incensed by it like so many others were. In fact, it actually kind of captivated my attention.
Now, I am speaking to you as a diehard Ross and Rachel fan. That being said, during the storyline arc that was Joey becoming unexpectedly infatuated with Rachel, being rejected (very kindly and compassionately I might add) by Rachel and eventually having his feelings reciprocated by her was both engaging and relatable. In my opinion, during the last remaining seasons of friends, Ross and Rachel still loved each other but had relegated themselves to the idea that, if their relationship hadn’t worked at this point, maybe it really just wasn’t meant to be. Meanwhile, Rachel had spent years developing a close bond with Joey, who was also her roommate for a period of time and was her shoulder to lean on (other than Ross and the rest of the gang) when she was pregnant with Ross’s child due to what the two had considered to be a random hookup. When you get that close and spend that much time with someone, both of you are single and you also both happen to be really good looking, isn’t attraction sort of inevitable?
I think so, and apparently so did the series’ writers and producers. However, for Aniston and LeBlanc, the storyline was just plain icky.
In an interview with The Guardian, co-creator David Crane spoke of the costars’ reticence in taking on a Rachel/Joey coupling.
“’Jennifer [Aniston] and Matt [LeBlanc] were very uncomfortable with that; they thought it was incestuous,’ says Kauffman. ‘We said: Because it’s so wrong, that makes it right, and it worked because it allowed us to show Joey in a new, heartbroken light,’ says Crane, which is true, sort of. At least they dropped that storyline fairly swiftly and soon after gave the show the Ross’n’Rachel finale the fans wanted.”
Well, at least they didn’t milk that story for too long.