Friends is one of the most successful television shows of all time. The 2004 series finale had 52.5 million viewers making it the 5th most watched series finale of all time. The show spawned a long list of pop-cultural idioms, for instance the “friend zone” and “pi-vaht!” By the last season, each of the six friends was getting paid one million dollars per episode, a dramatic increase from their starting salary of $22,500. There is no doubt about Friends’ popularity.
There are people who think they know everything about the show, having seen it all in original airings, on the season dvds, in syndication, and then on Netflix all over again. Yes, perhaps they wouldn’t get stumped if they were to play the Friends’ quiz game for who gets Monica and Rachel’s apartment (fun fact: Chandler’s job is in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration). But there are some fascinating, behind-the-scenes facts about the show that are invisible no matter how many times someone has seen the episodes. These are the hidden tidbits about who was supposed to play whom, what the show started out as, and what happened off-camera in the making of this NBC institution.
Monica and Joey Were Supposed to Be the Main Love Interest
Remember in that old episode of Friends, “The One With The Flashback,” where Joey still had the feathered hair and wasn’t a complete doofus, how he moves in with Chandler and then pulls a How I Met Your Mother naked man on Monica? Remember Monica thinking Joey was a dreamboat?
Originally, the main love duo of the show was supposed to be Monica and Joey, not Rachel and Ross. Once the producers saw David Schwimmer (Snaro?) and Jennifer Aniston’s onscreen chemistry, they shipped Ross and Rachel, but, in any other world, Monica would have met Joey in that hotel room in London…
There Were Originally Only Four Friends
Ever notice the strange implication throughout the show that Chandler is gay? There’s that episode where he accidentally self-hypnotizes using women’s quitting smoking tapes and starts acting like a woman. Then there’s the one where everyone tells him that he comes off as gay, but there are many, many, many others.
The reason is because originally, there were only four main friends: Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Joey, with Chandler and Phoebe as supporting characters, the former of whom was gay.
Things got changed around in production and Chandler was turned straight, but once upon a time, he was supposed to be the token gay guy and there were only supposed to be four main friends.
The Refrigerators Worked
Monica’s apartment was an oasis, or so it seemed. Be it the lasagna she made with Richard or Thanksgiving dinner, Monica’s apartment always smelled something delicious. But, unfortunately for the cast and crew, the stuff was mostly for show, except for the fridges!
The fridge in Joey’s apartment was empty unless it needed not to be for the plot of an episode, while the fridge in Monica’s apartment was stuffed with drinks for the cast and crew.
Hmm… how odd. Talk about life imitating art.
Matt LeBlanc Dyed His Hair
When Matt LeBlanc started on Episodes, everyone was like: “Wow, oh my God, look at his hair!” Why? Because it had gone completely grey since the Friends‘ finale (he had also gotten significantly more muscular.)
The truth is, Matt LeBlanc dyed his hair throughout Friends, from the pilot episode to the season ten finale. He’s just one of the unusual few who starts greying very young.
No one is complaining about LeBlanc’s current look, an athletic silver fox with royalty money is everyone’s favorite kind of romantic partner, but gray hair would not have suited his impish character on Friends. He continued to expense-account Feria and say “how you doin’?” to every girl that crossed his path.
Courteney Cox Was Never Nominated for an Emmy for Playing Monica
Friends was NBC’s Emmy workhorse. For crying out loud, Christina Applegate won an Emmy for appearing on the show in one single episode! (Granted, the award was for best guest star, but still.)
Unfortunately for good, ole Courteney Cox, she never got an Emmy for playing Monica. In fact, she was never even nominated.
All the other friends were nominated for an Emmy at least once, and Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow both won. But Courteney Cox never got the honor. It’s true that Phoebe and Rachel were exceptionally well-acted characters, but Monica was still just a shade off. Perhaps it’s harder to get an Emmy than it seems.
All The Friends Have Kissed Except for Phoebe and Monica
Ross has obviously kissed Rachel, not so obviously kissed Monica, and has had a failed attempted at sex with Phoebe (which included kissing…) chronologically before the pilot episode.
Chandler has kissed Rachel, has obviously kissed Monica, and kissed Phoebe to pretend like he wasn’t in love with his bride to be.
Joey has kissed Phoebe to make her feel better, kisses Monica in a hypothetical dimension, and kisses Rachel several times during their romantic arc.
Ross kisses Joey to help him prepare for a part and is kissed by Chandler in “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember which Sister” (in this one, the kiss is only spoken of, not seen.)
Joey and Chandler kiss in “The One With the Monkey.”
Monica and Rachel kiss to get their apartment back. Rachel and Phoebe kiss in “The One With Rachel’s Big Kiss.”
Monica and Phoebe haven’t kissed, because it’s so in character for Monica not to have kissed them all.
The Ladies All Ate The Same Thing For Lunch Every Day
Ever wonder what the trick to Jennifer Aniston’s slammin’ bod is? Apparently it isn’t pilates and the cayenne-maple diet. All you need, according to Courteney Cox, is a daily cobb salad.
That’s right, throughout the ten years of Friends, Jennifer Aniston brought a big cobb salad for herself and her two co-stars, which consists of, more or less, turkey, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, avocados, and a few hard-boiled eggs.
It’s a good dish and one that is both healthy and filling, but eating it every single day must get really redundant. Or maybe not, if you’re as good at cooking as Cox says Aniston is.
The First Choice for Rachel Was Tea Leoni
Remember the show The Naked Truth on ABC? Yeah, neither do we.
Tea Leoni, though, probably remembers it with searing clarity. She turned down the role of Rachel Green, which would go on to become one of the most iconic roles in television history, to play the lead character on this blip on the cultural radar.
Jennifer Aniston used her Friends fame to snag roles in such blockbusters as Along Came Polly, Marley and Me, We’re The Millers, and Horrible Bosses. She’s also really rich, re: $1M/ episode of Friends.
If Tea Leoni had been a little more willing to share the spotlight, then perhaps she could have been the one to get dumped by Brad Pitt…
David Schwimmer Is Younger Than Courteney Cox
There is a running joke on Friends that Ross is Mr. and Mrs. Gellar’s favorite child. Given the article that recently appeared, there is probably some truth to this. But, in reality, Monica would have been Judy’s favourite, because Courteney Cox is older than David Schwimmer by three years. As of today, Cox is fifty-one years old, while Schwimmer is at the upper end of his forties.
Now Cox looks legitimately freaky from all the plastic surgery, but once upon a time she looked fresh-faced enough to play a character younger than her supposedly “older” brother.
The Friends’ Age Gap
Speaking of age gaps, the Friends go:
Lisa Kudrow, born in July of 1963 (making her almost 52)
Courteney Cox, born in June of 1964 (making her 51)
David Schwimmer, born in November of 1966 (making him 48)
Matt LeBlacn, born in July of 1967 (making him almost 48)
Jennifer Aniston, born in February of 1969 (making her 46)
And the spring chicken Matthew Perry, born in August of 1969 (making him 45)
In Season 6, Episode 1, All The Names Have ‘Arquette’ Added to Them
In between seasons 5 and 6 of the show, Courteney Cox married her beau David Arquette (of the Arquette Hollywood dynasty) and became Courteney Cox Arquette. As a joke for viewers of the show, the producers added “Arquette” behind everyone’s name in the opening credits of the first episode of the following season.
At the end of the episode, they add the words: “For Courtneney and David who did get married,” a reference to Monica and Chandler’s decision not to elope in Vegas after the group went to find a disheartened Joey in Sin City.
The Theme Song Wasn’t Always “I’ll Be There For You”
Before they landed on “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme song so successful it went to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, the producers of Friends had picked “Shiny, Happy, People,” by R.E.M. In fact, if you listen closely, the chords in the song sounds a lot like the chords that played between scenes for the first few seasons of the show.
And, if you look closely, you can see that the name of the show was Friends Like Us. Other alternate titles for the show were Insomnia Café, Across the Hall, and Six of One.
Without the theme song and its snappy, one-word title, perhaps this show never would have gotten the amount of attention that it got in its current form. Or, perhaps now we would be looking back going: “Ugh, imagine if it had been called Friends?!”
A Few More Fun Facts About Credits Not Deserving Their Own Slot (We Spoil You)
The credit clips are changed regularly, usually twice a season.
They were made special in “The One After Ross Says Rachel,” the premiere of season five, being changed to images from only the previous two episodes, to really round out the story line.
In one episode of season one, “The One With the Thumb,” the claps that form part of the theme song are missing, due to a glitch in the master file.
Eleven Oscar Winning Actors Guest Starred on the Show
Fisher Stevens in “The One With the Boobies,”
Charlton Heston as himself in “The One With Joey’s Dirty Day,”
Sean Penn as Ursula’s ex-husband in “The One With The Stain,”
Susan Sarandon as Joey’s co-star in “The One With Joey’s New Brain,”
Helen Hunt in “The One With Two Parts,”
Reese Witherspoon as Rachel’s bratty sister in “The One With Rachel’s Sister,”
George Clooney as one of two doctors who pick up Rachel and Monica in “The One With Two Parts,”
Jim Rash as Rachel’s neighbor on the plane in “The Last One,”
And finally Brad Pitt as a recently thin man who hates Rachel in “The One With The Rumor.”
Season 2 Was The Only Season With No Thanksgiving Episode
This is unusual for shows, given that usually in the first season there are no holiday episodes. In the case of Friends, season two was the only one without a Thanksgiving installment. Every other season did, including season eight whose one features Brad Pitt.
There is a little bit of a Thanksgiving theme in S02E08, “The One With the Kiss,” insofar as Monica has to try to come up with Thanksgiving recipes for the new product “Mocklate,” a disgusting chocolate facsimile, but the holiday is still discussed as though it’s a ways away.
Friends is famous for its excellent Thanksgiving episodes, but it’s odd that there is one season where the main six do not gather to eat turkey and fall asleep in front of football.
They Always Sat In The Same Place Because It Was Reserved
Do you ever go to a café as popular as Central Perk and find the exact same spot open every time? Probably not, and especially not if it’s a spot as desirable as the living room right in the middle that occupies most of the space.
How, then, did the characters possibly sit in exactly the same spot every time?
Well, if you’ve got a keen hawk’s eye, you’ve probably noticed that on the coffee, there is a little “Reserved” sign, meaning that for ten years, Gunther allowed the six friends to reserve the most coveted spot in his restaurant.
Maybe it’s because they were such dedicated customers or maybe it’s because he was fudged in love with Rachel, but either way, this explains why they always sat in the same spot (and why Chandler and Ross thought they had a right to take on the bullies in season two.)
Marta Kauffman Was Told She Wasn’t a Good Writer
Marta Kauffman attended Marple Newtown High School in Broomall, Pennsylvania. After she found success with Friends, she was asked to come back and deliver a speech in front of the graduating class. She accepted, but she didn’t plan on giving a normal, inspirational speech. Instead, she came back and berated the school system for telling her that she was a bad writer.
She was not asked back, not only because she embarrassed the administrators, but because she is capable of writing compelling characters, as seen in both Friends and Grace and Frankie, and therefore the school was wrong.
The Love Story Between Rachel and Joey was Badly Received
Perhaps from the public, but specifically in this case by the cast and crew. The writers didn’t think it was plausible, the actors didn’t think it was in character; really, the only two people who were in favor of the romantic arc were Marta Kauffman and David Crane.
Although everyone opposed them on it, whenever challenged they would respond thusly: “[This is] exactly why we’re doing it. Sometimes friends fall in love even though it’s wrong.” Turns out their writers instincts were right, and the scene where Joey tells Rachel he loves her is one of the most emotionally touching in the Friends canon.
The Story Behind Phoebe’s Reincarnated Mom
In season 4, episode 2, Phoebe becomes convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a cat. This is not so weird for Phoebe, who is generally pretty loopy. But even then, it’s a bit of a stretch.
Well, as it turns out, Marta Kauffman wrote the episode shortly after her own mother had died. In an interview with the writers, they admit that had that not been the case, the plot would have been shot down at the table read, but those being the circumstances, they all guiltily accepted and it turned out to be quite a good episode of the show.
Friends pulls in $1 billion dollars each year for Warner Brothers from syndication. It’s not even a new show and it’s still like a cow made of solid gold. The individual Friends made $20 million each strictly from the re-runs of old episodes.
Occasionally, NBC would air “supersized” episodes that were 40 minutes with commercials (so 30 minutes of ‘raw’ material, not a 42-minute drama when commercials are removed).
However, since syndicates can’t air these episodes, they have to make stringent editorial choices: they either need to pare them down to fit into the 21-ish minute time-slot or hope there are enough deleted scenes to pad them up to two distinct episodes.
Given that doctoring, you are probably better off watching the entire series on Netflix, with all its original trappings.