Nearly 25 years ago, on September 22, 1994, Friends made its NBC debut and forever changed the face of American sitcoms. Here’s a look back at the series that still dominates Netflix’s streaming library:
FRIENDS WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED INSOMNIA CAFÉ
In the early 1990s, Friends co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman wrote a seven-page pitch for a new sitcom titled Insomnia Café. In addition to the different title, the plot itself was quite different from what came to be known as Friends. For example, Ross and Rachel weren’t the key relationship; instead, Joey and Monica were supposed to be love interests.
After NBC bought the pilot, the title became Friends Like Us. NBC president Warren Littlefield came up with another title that was also considered, Across the Hall. By the time they shot it, the title had switched again to Six of One. When the show premiered on September 22, 1994, they had finally landed on simply Friends.
THE CAST COULD HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
With a cast of six people, it’s not a surprise that many different actors were considered for each role. For example, Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch both were auditioning for the part of Phoebe.
Both Jon Favreau and Jon Cryer were considered for the role of Chandler before it went to Matthew Perry. The Friends producers originally asked her to play Rachel, but she requested the role of Monica because she liked the “strong” character.
THE ROLE OF ROSS GELLER WAS WRITTEN FOR DAVID SCHWIMMER
This may come as a surprise because Eric McCormack made news when he said that he auditioned “two or three times” for Ross. But, executive producer Kevin Bright had worked with Schwimmer before, so the writers were already developing Ross’s character in Schwimmer’s voice. And indeed, Schwimmer was the first person cast on the show.
LISA KUDROW DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY GUITAR
“I didn’t like the guitar,” Lisa Kudrow later recalled about Phoebe Buffay’s chosen musical instrument. “I wasn’t getting it. So I think I even asked, ‘What if she plays the bongos?'” They ended up bringing a guitar teacher in. Kudrow learned a couple of chords, then announced that she was done with the lessons. She decided that Phoebe would only know a handful of chords anyway. And thank goodness because “Smelly Cat” is perfect just the way it is.
THEY WERE THE FIRST TV CAST TO NEGOTIATE AS A GROUP
During the first season, each cast member was receiving around $22,000 per episode. All six cast members refused to work until they all earned an equal salary of $100,000 per episode. This negotiation worked very well. By the final season, each cast member was earning $1 million per episode.
MATT LEBLANC TOOK THE MAGNA DOODLE
Unsurprisingly, LeBlanc had a soft spot for the Magna Doodle, too—and actually took it with him when the series ended. He took the foosball table, too. It even found a second life on his short-lived Friends spinoff, Joey.
THE CAST HAD A HUDDLE BEFORE EVERY EPISODE
Every week before filming commenced, the cast would get together for a moment to prepare for the show. This was the moment that Schwimmer was dreading before the finale because he knew it would make him emotional. “Looking at everyone in their eyes, and saying ‘Have a good show,’ and knowing that was the last time we were going to be able to be in our little circle.”
FOR THE OPENING CREDITS IN “THE ONE AFTER VEGAS,” EVERYONE WAS GIVEN THE LAST NAME “ARQUETTE”
It was the first episode after Courteney Cox married David Arquette. In the credits, her name was switched to “Courteney Cox Arquette” and the other cast members followed suit with new names like “Jennifer Aniston Arquette,” “Lisa Kudrow Arquette,” and so on. The episode was dedicated: “For Courteney and David, who did get married.”
MATTHEW PERRY STRUGGLED WITH ADDICTION DURING PRODUCTION
In 1997, Perry went to rehab for an addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. He went again in 2001. He later told People, “I was never high at work. I was painfully hung over. Then eventually things got so bad I couldn’t hide it and everybody knew.”
JENNIFER ANISTON ALMOST DIDN’T RETURN FOR THE LAST SEASON
By the time the show ended, Aniston was arguably the most famous cast member. With that fame came the rumors that she was almost responsible for the show ending prematurely. In a 2004 interview, Aniston admitted that she had hesitations. “I had a couple issues that I was dealing with, 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?’” She eventually agreed to the final season.
A REUNION ISN’T HAPPENING
In 2015, Cox was asked about the possibility of a reunion. Cox responded, “It’s not going to happen.” She went on to explain that it’s difficult enough for the six of them to get together for a cast dinner, let alone a full-fledged reunion.
Kauffman and Crane have similar views about a reunion. In a 2014 interview, Crane said, “People say they want it, and the more that we say it’s a bad idea, people disagree. But I think if we actually gave it to people, there would be such backlash.”