Friends is an American situation comedy about a group of friends living in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which premiered on NBC on September 22, 1994. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. The original executive producers were Crane, Kauffman and Kevin Bright, with Adam Chase, Michael Curtis, Greg Malins, Scott Silveri, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen being promoted in later seasons.
Crane and Kauffman began developing Friends under the title "Insomnia Cafe" in November 1993. They presented the idea to Bright, with whom they had previously worked, and together they pitched a seven-page treatment of the series to NBC. After several script rewrites and changes, the series was finally named "Friends" and premiered on NBC's coveted Thursday 8:30 pm timeslot. Filming for the series took place at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California in front of a live audience. After ten seasons on the network, the series finale was heavily promoted by NBC, and viewing parties were organized around the U.S.. The finale, which was first aired on May 6, 2004, was watched by an average of 52.5 million American viewers, making it the fourth most-watched series finale in television history.
Friends received positive reviews throughout its run, and became one of the most popular sitcoms of its time. The series won many awards and was nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series was also very successful in the ratings, consistently ranking in the top ten in the final primetime ratings. Friends has made a large cultural impact, and the Central Perk coffee house featured prominently in the series has inspired various imitations worldwide. Repeats of the series continue to air worldwide, while each season has been released on DVD. Following the series finale, the spin-off series Joey was created, and rumors of a film continue to circulate.
- Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, a fashion enthusiast who starts working at the coffee shop, but later moves into management at Bloomingdale's and later at Ralph Lauren. Jennifer Aniston had already appeared in several unsuccessful sitcom pilots before being cast in Friends.
- Courteney Cox Arquette as Monica Geller (later Monica Geller-Bing), a chef who changes jobs often throughout the show, ending up as head chef at Javu. She is known for her obsessive-compulsive and competitive nature and is often ridiculed for having been an extremely overweight child by the others. She eventually marries longtime friend Chandler Bing in season seven. Courteney Cox was already an accomplished TV and film actress when she was cast, having appeared in the likes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and with several minor roles on sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Family Ties.
- Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay (later Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan), an eccentric masseuse and musician. Phoebe became homeless at the age of 14, and is known for being street-smart yet naive. She later marries Mike Hannigan and changes her name to his. Lisa Kudrow had previously played Ursula Buffay on Mad About You, and reprised the dual role of twin sister Ursula as a recurring character during several episodes of Friends. Prior to her role on Friends, Kudrow was an office manager and researcher for her father, a headache specialist.
- Matt Le Blanc as Joey Tribbiani, a struggling actor who becomes famous for his role on Days of our Lives as Dr. Drake Ramoray. Joey is a womanizer with many girlfriends throughout the series. He also has a strong appreciation for food, especially meatball subs. LeBlanc had appeared as Vinnie Verducci in Married... with Children in the early 1990s and starred in that sitcom's short-lived spin-off, Top of the Heap, as well as in the unrelated Vinnie & Bobby, but before that had mainly been focusing on advertising and modeling work when he was cast as Joey Tribbiani.
- Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, a sarcastic executive in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration for a large multi-national corporation. Chandler quits his job and becomes a junior copywriter at an advertising agency and marries longtime friend Monica Geller. Like Aniston, Perry had already appeared in several unsuccessful sitcom pilots before being cast.
- David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Monica's older brother, a paleontologist working at a museum of Prehistoric History and later a professor of paleontology at New York University. Ross has three unsuccessful marriages through the series, and is involved in an "on-again, off-again" relationship with Rachel. The character of Ross was written with David Schwimmer in mind; having auditioned for Crane and Kauffman in the past, Schwimmer was said to have a memorable voice and was most known for his Broadway work.
Before their roles on Friends, the main six cast members were somewhat familiar to television viewers, but were not considered to be stars. During the series' ten season run, the actors all achieved household name celebrity status, and all pursued careers in the movies, with varied success. Aniston's movie career is predominantly populated with light romantic comedies including The Good Girl, Bruce Almighty, Along Came Polly, Rumor Has It, The Break Up and Derailed. Cox made several lightweight films and achieved her greatest success with the Scream series, in which she co-starred with her husband, David Arquette, who had made a guest appearance as Ursula's stalker in Friends. This was followed by the critically acclaimed TV series, Dirt, that portrayed her as a ruthless editor of a two-bit tabloid magazine. Kudrow fared best in low budget indie films, most notably The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings, and also films like the comedy hit Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion and Analyze This. Most recently Kudrow played a main character alongside Hilary Swank in 2007's P.S. I Love You. Perry co-starred in the Canadian mafia comedy The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel The Whole Ten Yards along with Bruce Willis, who had also made guest appearances on the show. He also starred in the romantic comedy Fools Rush In. He also starred as the title character in the critically acclaimed The Ron Clark Story, and has since co-starred in TV drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and an episode of Scrubs titled "My Unicorn" as Murray. He has also played the leading role of the film Numb which, whilst released straight to DVD, has gained an appreciation and collection of high praise from critics. Matt LeBlanc took a leading role in Lost in Space and starred as the boyfriend of Alex (Lucy Liu) in Charlie's Angels. He also reprised his role as Joey Tribbiani in the show's spin off series, Joey. In 2001, Schwimmer co-starred as Capt. Herbert Sobel in the 2001 TV mini-series Band of Brothers. In 2005, Schwimmer starred as the voice for the giraffe Melman in the movie Madagascar a role which he reprised in the 2008 Madagascar 2. David Schwimmer directed ten episodes of Friends and two of Joey. His big directorial debut "Run Fatboy Run" was released on March 28, 2008.
Series co-creator David Crane wanted all six characters to be equally prominent, and the series was lauded as being "the first true 'ensemble' show". The cast members made efforts to keep the ensemble format and not allow one member to dominate; they entered themselves in the same acting categories for awards, opted for collective instead of individual salary negotiations, and asked to appear together on magazine cover photos in the first season.
In their original contracts for the first two seasons, each main cast member was paid $1,600 per episode. Before the third season, the cast threatened to go on strike unless they received pay increases, which resulted in each actor receiving $100,000 per episode. For the series' sixth season, the cast members were offered $250,000 to return. The cast members again entered negotiations before the sixth season, asking for $750,000 per episode, and during the ninth and tenth seasons, received $1 million per episode.
Behind the scenes, the show was known for its unusually cohesive and unified cast. The six main actors made deliberate efforts, from early on, to keep the show's ensemble format and not allow one member to dominate; notably for a show of its length, the six principals each appeared in every episode of the run. The actors became such close friends that one guest star, Tom Selleck, reported sometimes feeling left out. The cast remained good friends after the show's run, most notably Cox and Aniston, with Aniston being godmother to Cox and David Arquette's daughter, Coco. In their official farewell commemorative Friends Til' The End, they each separately acknowledged in their interviews that the cast had become their family.
Storylines and format
The first season introduces the six main characters: Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Joey Tribbiani, Chandler Bing, and Ross Geller. Rachel, who left her fiance at the altar on her wedding day, has come to New York and ends up living with Monica. It establishes early on in the season that Ross has been infatuated with Rachel since the two characters attended high school. Several episodes revolve around his attempts to tell her how he feels. Meanwhile, Ross's estranged lesbian wife Carol is pregnant with his baby. This puts him and Carol's lesbian life partner, Susan (played by Jessica Hecht), in an awkward position. When the baby is born at the end of the season, Ross, Carol, and Susan agree to name him Ben: after a name tag on a janitor's uniform worn by Phoebe. The episodic nature of the season sees the other characters having multiple dates, many of which go wrong (Monica dates a minor in one episode). The recurring character of Janice (played by Maggie Wheeler) is introduced as a girlfriend Chandler breaks up with in an early episode but frequently returns to through the ensuing ten seasons.
The second season features more serialized storylines; it begins when Rachel discovers that Ross is dating Julie (played by Lauren Tom), someone he knew from grad school. Julie returns for several episodes early in the season. Rachel's attempts to tell Ross she likes him mirror his own failed attempts in the first season, though the characters eventually begin a relationship that lasts into the following season. Joey, a struggling actor in the first season, gets a part in a fictionalized version of the soap opera Days of Our Lives but loses the part soon after when he angers the writers by saying in an interview that he writes many of his own lines. Tom Selleck begins a recurring guest role as Dr. Richard Burke. Richard, a friend of Monica and Ross' parents who is recently divorced and with grown children, is 21 years older than Monica but despite this they date for the second half of the season. In the season finale, they end the relationship when they realize that he does not want any more children and she does. The second season also served to deepen Chandler and Joey's friendship. This becomes especially apparent in the episodes in which Joey temporarily moves out and a creepy guy named Eddie (Adam Goldberg) moves in.
The third season took on a significantly greater serialized format. Rachel begins working at Bloomingdales and Ross becomes jealous of her coworker, Mark. Ross and Rachel break up after Ross sleeps with the hot girl from the copy shop, Chloe. His insistence that he and Rachel were "on a break" becomes a running gag through the remaining seasons. The two show significant animosity towards each other through the second half of the season, though the cliffhanger ending suggests the two reconcile. Interestingly, the first episode after they break up does not focus on the two of them, but on Chandler, who's having a very hard time dealing with the situation, as it reminds him of his parents' divorce. Phoebe, established as having no family except for an identical twin sister, becomes acquainted with her half-brother (played by Giovanni Ribisi) and in the finale discovers her birth mother she never knew she had (played by Teri Garr). Joey develops a crush on Kate, his acting partner in a new play. (played by Dina Meyer) At first, she doesn't harbor feelings for him, even after sleeping together. However, after her boyfriend/director dumps her following a scathing review of the play, she turns to Joey for support. The relationship doesn't last long, as she is given an opportunity on a soap opera in Los Angeles. Monica begins a relationship with Pete Becker, a millionaire who has a crush on her. (played by Jon Favreau) At first, she only sees him as a friend, but eventually, the two begin to date. Preparing for what she thinks is a marriage proposal, Pete confides in her that he wants to become the Ultimate Fighting Champion. After seeing him get beat up badly in two matches, she tells him he has to give it up. Since he won't, she breaks up with him.
During the fourth season, actress Lisa Kudrow became pregnant. This was written into the show by having Phoebe become a surrogate mother to the children of her brother and his wife (played by Debra Jo Rupp). Ross and Rachel briefly reconcile in the premiere but soon break up again. During the middle of the season, Monica and Rachel are forced to switch apartments with Joey and Chandler after losing a bet on how well the four know each other. They bribe Joey and Chandler to switch back with Knicks season tickets and a one-minute kiss. Mid-season, having moved on, Ross begins dating an English woman called Emily (played by Helen Baxendale) and the finale, featuring the wedding of the characters, was filmed on location in London. Chandler and Monica sleep together when, after a wedding guest mistakes Monica for Ross' mother, Monica seeks comfort in the arms of a friend. Rachel, depressed by the impending wedding enough to chase away a potential boyfriend in Joshua, attends the wedding at the last minute, intending to tell Ross that she still loves him, but decides not to. Things are thrown into chaos when Ross replaces Emily's name with Rachel's while saying his vows.
The fifth season follows Monica and Chandler keeping their new relationship a secret from their friends, while Ross' marriage to Emily ends before it even started, following their wedding (Baxendale's pregnancy prevented her from appearing on-screen in all but two episodes). Phoebe starts a relationship with Gary (Michael Rapaport), a police officer she meets after finding his badge. Although leery of moving in with Gary, she eventually relents. The relationship ends with a bang, literally, when Gary shoots a bird outside of their apartment. Monica and Chandler's relationship becomes public and on a trip to Las Vegas, they decide to get married. On a cliffhanger, Ross and Rachel drunkenly stumble out of the wedding chapel. It received Emmy nominations in 1999 for Outstanding Comedy Series.
In the sixth season premiere Ross and Rachel's marriage is established to be a drunken mistake and, although Ross is reluctant to do so, the two get a divorce (Ross's third) after failing to get an annulment. Monica and Chandler decide just to move into her apartment together and Rachel moves in with Phoebe. Joey, still a struggling actor, gets a female roommate and a part on a cable television series called "Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E", where he stars alongside a robot. Ross gets a job lecturing at New York University and starts dating his college student, Elizabeth (played by Alexandra Holden). Bruce Willis makes a three-episode cameo as her father. Phoebe and Rachel's apartment catches on fire, causing Rachel to move in with Joey and Phoebe with Chandler and Monica. In the final episodes, Chandler decides to propose to Monica. Trying to make it a surprise, he starts acting like his old commitment-phobic self, telling her he opposes marriage. For a brief moment Monica considers going to back to Richard, who confesses to her that he still loves her and is willing to have children with her. Monica gets wind of Chandler's idea, and attempts to propose to him but breaks down in tears and cannot finish. Chandler then asks her to marry him and the show is ended with celebration with many of the friends who were standing outside the door. It nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at Emmy Award 2000.
The seventh season largely concerns various wedding-related antics by Monica and Chandler. Joey's television series is canceled but he is offered his old job back on Days of Our Lives. Phoebe's apartment is fixed but due to the way the apartment has been rebuilt, Rachel stays with Joey. The two-part season finale follows Monica and Chandler's wedding, with guest stars that include Kathleen Turner as Chandler's transvestite father. The closing moments of the season reveal that Rachel is pregnant.
The eighth season's first episodes follow a "Who's the father?" format, with the father revealed to be Ross in episode two and Rachel telling him in episode three. Joey begins to develop romantic feelings for roommate Rachel and when Joey's feelings are revealed things become awkward for the two. Eventually their friendship returns to its status quo but in the finale, following Rachel's giving birth to a daughter, she accepts an accidental [roposal of marriage from him. The season was regarded as a return to form for the series; its ratings increased as viewers tuned in for comfort following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002. The first in that category for the series.
The ninth season follows Ross and Rachel living together with baby Emma after she and Joey clear up the misdirected proposal. She soon moves back in with Joey after a fight with Ross. Monica and Chandler, inspired by Ross and Rachel, decide to conceive a child of their own. They seek medical advice after several episodes of trying for a baby, and discover that both of them are physically unable to conceive. Paul Rudd appears in the recurring role of Mike Hannigan, a new boyfriend for Phoebe. Hank Azaria returns as David "the scientist guy", a character originated in the first season, and Phoebe must choose between the two in a touching finale, deciding to choose Mike. The finale is set in Barbados, where the group goes to hear Ross give a keynote speech at a Paleontologist conference. Aisha Tyler appears as the series' first recurring black character. Tyler plays Charlie, Joey's intelligent girlfriend. Even though Joey's attracted to her, she finds herself eventually becoming attracted to Ross, who is more her intellectual equal. After Charlie dumps Joey, Joey and Rachel's feelings for each other return. They agree to clear it with Ross first, until Joey catches Ross kissing Charlie. The finale ends with Joey and Rachel kissing.
The tenth season closes up several storylines; Joey and Rachel try to contend with Ross' feelings about them being together. However, consummating the relationship becomes disastrous, and they decide to remain friends. Charlie decides to return to Benjamin Hobart (Greg Kinnear), her old flame, and from whom Ross was trying to obtain a research grant. Monica and Chandler decide to adopt a child, and meet Erica, a birth mother from Ohio (played by Anna Faris). Erica gives birth to twins in the series finale. Phoebe and Mike get married towards the end of the season and Rachel takes a job based in Paris. Ross declares his love for her and they resume their relationship (not making any mistakes this time) in the season finale, while Monica and Chandler move out of their apartment into the suburbs. Joey is upset that everything is changing. Rachel still gets on the plane even with Ross' confessions, but later appears at his apartment door admitting she loves him too. In the series finale, at the end, a tearful Rachel says 'Shall we go get some coffee?' to which Chandler sarcastically responds, 'Sure. Where?' (the last words spoken on the show).
|"It's about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything's possible. And it's about friendship because when you're single and in the city, your friends are your family."|
|—The original treatment used by Crane, Kauffman and Bright to pitch the series to NBC.|
David Crane and Marta Kauffman began developing three new television pilots — which would premiere in the Fall 1994 season — following the cancellation of their sitcom, Family Album, by CBS in November 1993. Kauffman and Crane decided to pitch the series about "six people in their 20's making their way in Manhattan" to NBC, which they felt best suited the network's style. Crane and Kauffman presented the idea to their production partner Kevin Bright, who had served as executive producer on their HBO series Dream On. The idea for the series was conceived when Crane and Kauffman began thinking about the time when they had finished college and started living by themselves in New York; Kauffman believed they were looking at a time when the future was "more of a question mark". They found the concept to be interesting, as they believed "everybody knows that feeling", and because it was also how they felt about their own lives at the time. The team titled the series Insomnia Cafe (other working titles included Across the Hall, Six of One and Friends Like Us), and pitched the idea as a seven-page treatment to NBC in December 1993.
At the same time, Warren Littlefield, the then-president of NBC Entertainment, was seeking a comedy involving young people living together and sharing expenses. Littlefield wanted the group to share memorable periods of their lives with friends, who had become "new, surrogate family members". However, Littlefield found difficulty in bringing the concept to life, and found the scripts developed by NBC to be terrible. When Kauffman, Crane and Bright pitched Insomnia Cafe, Littlefield was impressed that they knew who their characters were. NBC bought the idea as a put pilot, meaning they risked financial penalties if the pilot was not filmed. Kauffman and Crane began writing a pilot script for a show now titled Friends Like Us, which took three days to write. Littlefield wanted the series to represent Generation X and explore a new kind of tribal bonding, but the trio did not share his vision. Crane argued that it was not a series for one generation, and wanted to produce a series that everyone would enjoy watching. NBC liked the pilot script and ordered the series under another title, Six of One, mainly due to the similar title it shared with the ABC sitcom These Friends of Mine.
Once it became apparent that the series was a favored project at NBC, Littlefield reported that he was getting calls from every agent in town, wanting their client to be a part of the series. Auditions for the lead roles took place in New York and Los Angeles. The casting director shortlisted 1,000 actors who had replied for each role down to 75. Those who received a callback read again in front of Crane, Kauffman and Bright. At the end of March, the number of potential actors had been reduced to three or four for each part, and were asked to read for Les Moonves, president of Warner Bros. Television.
During the casting process, more changes occurred to the series' storylines. The writers found that they had to adjust the characters they had written to suit the actors, and the discovery process of the characters occurred throughout the first season. Kauffman acknowledged that Joey's character became "this whole new being", and that "it wasn't until we did the first Thanksgiving episode that we realized how much fun Monica's neuroses are." Having worked with Schwimmer before, the series creators wrote the character of Ross with him in mind, and he was the first actor cast. Aniston, Perry and Kudrow were cast based on their auditions.
The producers wanted Courteney Cox to portray Rachel; however, Cox asked to play Monica. Kauffman said that Cox had "this cheery, upbeat energy", which was not how they envisioned Monica. When Cox auditioned for the role, the producers were surprised by her direction of the character and she was cast. When Matt LeBlanc auditioned for Joey, he put a "different spin" on Joey. The writers did not originally intend for Joey to be dim, but found it to be a major source of comedy. LeBlanc also gave the character heart, which the writers did not realize Joey had.
In the weeks after NBC's pick up of Friends, Crane, Kauffman and Bright reviewed sent-in scripts that writers had originally prepared for other series, mainly unproduced Seinfeld episodes. Kauffman and Crane hired a team of seven young writers because "When you're 40, you can't do it anymore. The networks and studios are looking for young people coming in out of college." According to Crane, the creators felt that utilizing six equal characters, rather than emphasizing one or two, would allow for "myriad story lines and give the show legs". The majority of the storyline ideas came from the writers, although the actors added ideas. The writers originally planned a big love story between Joey and Monica, as they intended them to be the most sexual of the characters in the series pitch. The idea of a romantic interest between Ross and Rachel emerged during the time when Kauffman and Crane were writing the pilot script.
During the production of the pilot, NBC requested that the script be changed to feature one dominant storyline and several minor ones, but the writers wanted to keep three story lines of equal weight and refused. NBC thought the cast was too young, and pushed for an older character who could give the young adults advice. Crane and Kauffman were forced to comply, and wrote a draft of an early episode which featured "Pat the cop". Crane found the storyline to be terrible, and Kauffman joked, "You know the kids book, Pat the Bunny? We had Pat the Cop." NBC eventually consented and dropped the idea.
The producers would outline the storylines for each season early in the previous summer. Before an episode went into production, Kauffman and Crane would revise the script written by another writer, mainly if something felt foreign to either the series or a character. Unlike other storylines, the idea for a relationship between Joey and Rachel was decided on halfway through the eighth season. The creators did not want Ross and Rachel to get back together so soon, and while looking for a romantic impediment, a writer suggested Joey's romantic interest in Rachel. The storyline was incorporated into the season; however, when the actors feared that the storyline would make their characters unlikeable, the storyline was wrapped up, until it again resurfaced in the season's finale. For the ninth season, the writers were unsure about the amount of storyline to give to Rachel's baby, as they neither wanted the show to revolve around a baby nor pretend there to be none.
The first season was shot on Stage 5 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. The NBC executives had worried that the coffee house setting was too hip and asked for the series to be set in a diner, but eventually consented to the coffee house concept. The opening title sequence was filmed in a fountain at the Warner Bros. Ranch at 4:00 am, while it was particularly cold for a Burbank morning. At the beginning of the second season, production moved to the larger Stage 24, which was renamed "The Friends Stage" after the series finale. Filming began in the summer of 1994 in front of a live audience, who were given a summary of the series to familiarize themselves with the six main characters; a hired comedian entertained the studio audience between takes. Each 22-minute episode took six hours to film — twice the length of most sitcom tapings — mainly due to the several retakes and rewrites of the script.
Although the producers always wanted to find the right stories to take advantage of being on location, Friends was never shot in New York. Bright felt that filming outside the studio made episodes less funny, even when shooting on the lot outside, and that the live audience was an integral part of the series. When the series was criticized for incorrectly depicting New York, with the financially struggling group of friends being able to afford huge apartments, Bright noted that the set had to be big enough for the cameras, lighting, and "for the audience to be able to see what's going on"; the apartments also needed to provide a place for the actors to execute the funny scripts. The fourth season finale was shot on location in London because the producers knew of the country's large fanbase. The scenes were shot in a studio with three audiences of 500 each, the show's largest audiences throughout its run. Although some people thought the season 5 finale was filmed on location in Las Vegas, the episode was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, where they took down the Central Perk set to be replaced with Cesar's Palace (the only time in the show's run that the coffee shop set was taken down).
After the produced pilot lived up to NBC's hopes, the series premiered with the name Friends on September 22, 1994 on the coveted Thursday 8:30 pm timeslot. The pilot aired between Mad About You and Seinfeld, and was watched by almost 22 million American viewers. The series was a huge success throughout its run, and was a staple of NBC's Thursday night line-up, dubbed by the network as Must See TV. When Crane told reporters in 2001 that the ninth season was a possibility, critics believed that he was posturing, and that at least two of the cast members would not sign on for another season. When it was confirmed that Friends would return for a ninth season, the news was mainly about the amount of money — $1 million per episode — that it took to bring the series back for another season.
After year-long expectations that the ninth season would be the series' last, NBC signed a deal in late December 2002 to bring the series back for a final tenth season. The series' creative team did not want to extend negotiations into the next year, and wanted to start writing the rest of the ninth season episodes and a potential series finale. NBC agreed to pay $10 million to Warner Bros. for the production of each tenth season episode, the highest price in television history for a 30-minute series. Although NBC was unable to bring in enough advertising revenue from commercials to cover the costs, the series was integral to the Thursday night schedule, which brought high ratings and profits to the other television series. The cast demanded that the tenth season be reduced from the usual 24 episodes to 18 episodes to allow them to work on outside projects.
The series' creators completed the first draft of the hour-long finale in January 2004, four months before its original airing. Crane, Kauffman and Bright decided to watch finales from other sitcoms to prepare the episode's outline, paying attention to what worked and what did not. Kauffman found that they liked the ones which stayed true to the series, citing the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the gold standard. The writers had difficulty writing the finale, and spent several days thinking about the finale scene without being able to write a word. Crane said that they did not want to do "something high concept, or take the show out of the show". The most critical parts of the finale were shot without an audience, and with a minimum amount of crew. The main cast enjoyed the finale and were confident that the fans would react similarly. David Schwimmer said the finale was "exactly what I had hoped. We all end up with a sense of a new beginning and the audience has a sense that it's a new chapter in the lives of all these characters."
NBC heavily promoted the series finale, which was preceded by weeks of media hype. Local NBC affiliates organized viewing parties around the U.S., including an event at Universal CityWalk featuring a special broadcast of the finale on an outdoor Astrovision screen. The finale was the subject of two episodes of Dateline NBC, a weekly television newsmagazine, one of which ran for two hours. A one-hour retrospective of clips from previous episodes was shown before to the airing of the episode. Following the finale, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was filmed on the set of the Friends' Central Perk cafe, which featured the series' cast as guests. The advertising rates for the finale averaged $2 million for 30 seconds of commercial time, breaking the record held by the Seinfeld finale at $1.7 million.
52.5 million American viewers watched the finale on May 6, 2004, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast in six years. Although it was not the series' most-watched episode, the finale was the fourth most-watched series finale in television history, only behind the finales of M*A*S*H, Cheers and Seinfeld, which were watched by 105, 80.4 and 76.2 million viewers respectively. The retrospective episode was watched by fewer than 36 million viewers, and the finale was the second most-watched television show of the year, only behind the Super Bowl. Following the finales of Friends and Frasier, media critics speculated about the fate of the sitcom genre. Expressed opinions varied between a signaling of the end of the sitcom genre, a small decline in the large history of the genre, and a general reduction of scripted television in favor of reality shows. Kauffman and Crane stated that they would not have signed on for an eleventh season, even if all the cast members wanted to continue. Crane said that it took them a while to accept the idea of a tenth season, which they decided to do because they had enough stories left to tell to justify the season.
Early reviews of the series were mixed. Tom Feran of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the series traded "vaguely and less successfully on the hanging-out style of Seinfeld", while Ann Hodges of the Houston Chronicle called it "the new Seinfeld wannabe, but it will never be as funny as Seinfeld." In the Los Angeles Daily News, Ray Richmond named the series as "one of the brighter comedies of the new season", and The Los Angeles Times called it "flat-out the best comedy series of the new season".
Chicago Sun-Times' Ginny Holbert found Joey and Rachel's characteristics to be underdeveloped, while Richmond commended the cast as a "likeable, youth ensemble" with "good chemistry". Robert Bianco of USA Today was complementary of Schwimmer, calling him "terrific". He also praised the female leads, but was concerned that Perry's role as Chandler was "undefined" and that LeBlanc was "relying too much on the same brain-dead stud routine that was already tired the last two times he tried it". The authors of Friends Like Us: The Unofficial Guide to Friends thought that the cast was "trying just a little too hard", in particular Perry and Schwimmer.
As the series progressed, reviews became more positive, and Friends became one of the most popular sitcoms of its time. Critics commended the series for its consistently sharp writing and the chemistry between the main actors. Noel Holston of Newsday, who had dismissed the pilot as a "so-so Seinfeld wannabe" in 1994, reneged his review after rewatching the episode, and felt like writing an apology to the writers. Heather Havrilesky of Salon.com thought that the series "hit its stride" in the second season. Havrilesky found the character-specific jokes and situations "could reliably make you laugh out loud a few times each episode", and the quality of writing allowed the stories to be "original and innovative". Bill Carter of The New York Times called the eighth season a "truly stunning comeback". Carter found that by "generating new hot story lines and high-decibel laughs", the series made its way "back into the hearts of its fans". However, Liane Bonin of Entertainment Weekly felt that the direction of the ninth season was a "disappointing buzzkill", criticizing it for the non-stop celebrity guest spots and going into jump the shark territory. Although disappointed with the season, Bonin noted that "the writing [was] still sharp". Havrilesky thought that the tenth season was "alarmingly awful, far worse than you would ever imagine a show that was once so good could be."
Reviews of the series finale were mixed to positive. USA Today's Robert Bianco described the finale as entertaining and satisfying, and praised it for deftly mixing emotion and humor while showcasing each of the stars. Sarah Rodman of the Boston Herald praised Aniston and Schwimmer for their acting, but felt that their characters' reunion was "a bit too neat, even if it was what most of the show's legions of fans wanted." Roger Catlin of The Hartford Courant felt that newcomers to the series would be "surprised at how laughless the affair could be, and how nearly every strained gag depends on the sheer stupidity of its characters." Ken Parish Perkins, writing for Fort Worth Star-Telegram, pointed out that the finale was "more touching than comical, more satisfying in terms of closure than knee-slappingly funny."
Although the producers thought of Friends as "only a TV show", numerous psychologists investigated the cultural impact of Friends during the series' run. Aniston's hairstyle was nicknamed "The Rachel" and copied around the world. Joey Tribbiani's catchphrase "How you doin'?" has become a popular part of Western English slang, often used as a pick-up line or when greeting friends. The show also popularized the idea of the "laminated list", a list of celebrities that a person's partner will permit them to sleep with if they were to ever meet them. In "The One With Frank Jr." the characters exchange "lists" verbally, while Ross creates a physical list and laminates it, making his choices permanent. The concept of the laminated list has been adopted by the Hollywood Stock Exchange website. The series also impacted on the English language, according to a study by a linguistics professor at the University of Toronto. The professor found that the characters used the word "so" as an adjective more often than other intensifiers, such as "very" and "really". Although the preference had already made its way into the American vernacular, usage on the series may have accelerated the change. The show is also responsible for popularizing the phrase "going commando".
The phrase "Ross and Rachel" has appeared as a joke in Scrubs: the janitor describes J.D.'s relationship with Elliot as "not exactly Ross and Rachel." Friends has been referenced again in the Scrubs episode, "My Cold Shower"; Carla describes J.D and Elliot's relationship as being, "On and off more than Ross and Rachel, from Friends." Also in Scrubs, when Elliot and J.D. are deciding to get back together, J.D. says "We don't always have to be arguing over if we were on a break", to which Elliot responds "Did you watch the Friends re-run on NBC last night?". On the 100th episode of the television show One Tree Hill (Lucas' and Lindsay's wedding), a character references Ross saying the wrong name at the altar when he was marrying Emily. In one episode of the British show Skins, a Russian girl learns English from Friends, and uses many of the catchphrases (such as "How you doin'" and "We were on a break") as a recurring joke.
One of the principal settings of the series, the Central Perk coffee house has inspired various imitations worldwide (the coffee house is based on Cholmondeley's, a coffee shop and lounge in Usen Castle at Brandeis University, the alma mater of the show's creators), including the now-defunct "Phoenix Perk" in Dublin (named for the Phoenix Park in the city) and the 'Riverdale Perk' in Toronto. In 2006 Iranian businessman Mojtaba Asadian started a "Central Perk" franchise, registering the name in 32 countries. The décor of his coffee houses are inspired by that in Friends. James Michael Tyler, who plays Gunther, the Central Perk waiter in love with Rachel, attended the grand opening of the flagship Dubai café and is the spokesman for the company. Central Perk was rebuilt as part of a museum exhibit at Warner Bros. Studios, and was shown on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2008. Lisa Kudrow revisited the set for the first time since the series finale in 2004.
Additionally, many fans have attempted to recreate the look of the "Friends" apartments. Many companies now sell replicas of props appearing on the sets of Friends. One such example is www.friendsposter.com, which features Monica's famous peephole frame, and many posters that are featured in both Monica and Joey and Chandler's apartments.
The name of every Friends episode, with the exceptions of the very first and last episodes (titled "The Pilot" and "The Last One" respectively), starts with "The One...", e.g. "The One With Ross' Inappropriate Song", though the Pilot is sometimes called "The One Where Monica Gets A Roommate", or "The One Where It All Began". In continuing with this tradition, a boxed set containing all ten seasons on DVD was called "The One With All Ten Seasons". This tradition is based on the way people, when unable to remember the actual title of an episode of a TV show, will describe it as "it's the one with..." and then state the main storyline of the episode.
A parody of Friends was created in Britain called Chums and was aired on SM-TV. It features 3 characters named Ant, Dec and Cat Deely. Cat Deely can be seen as a parody of Rachel's actions. The episodes include short episodes, also beginning with "The One...". Most of the episodes feature pretend shows like Pokefight, based on Pokemon. Also Nickelodeon's 'Snick' used to make short episodes called 'Buds' with the Snick cast. They would act like the friends cast but with different, pointless plots.
Awards and nominations
To maintain the series' ensemble format, the main cast members decided to enter themselves in the same acting categories for awards. Beginning with the series' eighth season, the actors decided to submit themselves in the lead actor balloting, rather than in the supporting actor fields. The series was nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning six. Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow are the only main cast members to win an Emmy, while Courteney Cox is the only actor not to be nominated. The series won the 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, with nominations in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2003. The series also won an American Comedy Award, one GLAAD Media Award, one Golden Globe Award, three Logie Awards, six People's Choice Awards, one Satellite Award, and then two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The 66-minute series finale was named by Entertainment Tonight as the biggest TV moment of the year 2004, and was the second highest rated show in 2004, bringing in 52.5 million viewers (43% of all viewers that night), beaten only by Super Bowl XXXVIII. However, it did not surpass the ratings received by series finales for M*A*S*H (106 m), Cheers (80.4 m) or Seinfeld (76.3 m), nor was it the most watched episode of Friends-that accolade remains with the Season Two episode "The One After The Superbowl", which aired on January 28, 1996 and drew 52.9 million viewers.
The table below indicates the ratings of Friends in the U.S., where it consistently ranked within the top ten of the final television ratings. "Rank" refers to how well Friends rated compared to other television series which aired during primetime hours of the corresponding television season. The television season tends to begin in September, and ends during the May of the following year, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps. "Viewers" refers to the average number of viewers for all original episodes, broadcast during the television season in the series' regular timeslot. "Rank" is shown in relation to the total number of series airing on the then-six major English-language networks in a given season. The "season premiere" is the date that the first episode of the season aired, and the "season finale" is the date that the final episode of the season aired.
|Season||Timeslot (EDT)||Season Premiere||Season Finale||TV Season||Rank|| Viewers|
|1|| Thursday 8:30 P.M. (September 22, 1994 - February 23, 1995)|
Thursday 9:30 P.M.(February 23, 1995 - May 18, 1995)
|September 22, 1994||May 18, 1995||1994-1995||#8||24.3|
|2|| Thursday 8:00 P.M. (September 21, 1995 - January 18, 1996)|
Sunday 10:13 P.M. (January 28, 1996)
Thursday 8:00 P.M. (February 1, 1996 - May 16, 1996)
|September 21, 1995||May 16, 1996||1995-1996||#3||29.4|
|3||Thursday 8:00 P.M. (September 19, 1996 - May 17, 2001)||September 19, 1996||May 15, 1997||1996-1997||#4||25.0|
|4||September 25, 1997||May 7, 1998||1997-1998||#4||24.0|
|5||September 24, 1998||May 20, 1999||1998-1999||#2||23.5|
|6||September 23, 1999||May 18, 2000||1999-2000||#3||20.9|
|7||October 12, 2000||May 17, 2001||2000-2001||#4||19.7|
|8|| Thursday 8:00 P.M. (September 27, 2001 - October 4, 2001)|
Thursday 8:50 P.M. (October 11, 2001)
Thursday 8:00 P.M. (October 18, 2001 - May 16, 2002)
|September 27, 2001||May 16, 2002||2001-2002||#1||24.5|
|9||Thursday 8:00 P.M. (September 26, 2002 - May 15, 2003)||September 26, 2002||May 15, 2003||2002-2003||#4|
|10|| Thursday 8:00 P.M. (September 25, 2003 - April 29, 2004)|
Thursday 9:00 P.M. (May 6, 2004)
|September 25, 2003||May 6, 2004||2003-2004||#5||21.4|
Australian and New Zealand ratings
Friends debuted on Australian television in 1996, on the Seven Network. For the first season, it averaged 1,788,000 viewers per episode, and was the 8th most watched regular program that year. The second season aired on the Nine Network by the end of 1996, and took the number 2 position and averaged 2,291,000 viewers per episode. The third season aired in mid-1997 and saw an increase in its position and viewers, being the most watched regular program, averaging 2,543,000 viewers per episode. Repeats were also averaging 1,918,000 viewers, and they were the 6th most watched regular program of the year. The fourth season aired in 1998, and continued to increase in ratings, averaging 2,586,000 viewers. The fifth season aired in 1999, but saw a slight drop in viewers. It averaged 2,340,000 viewers per episode, but still managed to retain its number one position.
The sixth season, aired in 2000, fell into a contentious year for TV ratings in Australia. Previously, ratings had been calculated by Nielsen Media Research, but OzTAM took over. OzTAM showed slight differences in ratings for most shows broadcast on Nine Network, and saw a significant drop in total viewers across all networks. OzTAM had Friends averaging 1,816,000 viewers nationally, and ranked it as the 3rd most watched program of the year. Nielsen Media Research Australia, however, had Friends averaging 2,340,000 viewers per episode, and ranked it as the most watched program.
The eighth season, aired in 2002, saw erratic scheduling of Friends on the Nine Network, and as a result saw a major drop in viewers. It ranked as the 10th most watched regular program that year, averaging 1,629,000 viewers. As a result of the Athens Olympics, Friends saw a decrease in its ratings. It was put on hiatus twice, for periods of four and seven months long respectively. The tenth season averaged 1,716,000 viewers per episode, and was ranked as the 6th most watched program of the year. It was also ranked as the third most watched scripted program. The finale averaged 2,273,000 viewers, though it was not the highest rated episode of Friends ever.
While Cable TV channel Arena (a Foxtel and Optus channel) aired Friends repeats daily, channel Nine did not air Friends repeats like it did with another popular US sitcom, Frasier. In November 2007, it was announced that Network Ten had bought the rights to the show (although Nine retains some last season episodes which are replayed late-night, thus making it aired simultaneously by two separate networks), and that it would air it seven nights a week from December 2 screening at 7:00p.m., replacing Futurama repeats. It was also a part of the 2007/2008 summer schedule, meaning that the show has aired on all of Australia's "Big Three" television networks. In February 2008, Friends was moved to the 6pm Monday-Friday timeslot, and replaced long-running 6 p.m. repeats of The Simpsons in Network Ten's regular schedule. Due to sexual content and low level coarse language, many episodes were edited to fit the G ratings, and the first two episodes of the fifth season were cut altogether due to Monica and Chandler's relationship acts. On July 28, 2008, Network Ten moved episodes of Friends to 7pm weeknights, allowing for the episodes to remain unedited.
In New Zealand, Friends first debuted on TV2 during the middle of 1995. The show typically screened around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights but some seasons were screened on Sunday nights. Repeats were screened at 7:00 p.m. during December and January between 1996 and 1998 when Shortland Street went off the air for the Summer break. TV2 began screening repeats at 6:30 p.m. from 2000 onwards, running constant repeats of all previous seasons. Currently, the show plays every weeknight at 6:00 p.m. Comedy Central has announced they will screen Friends when TV2 loses the rights around 2015-16.
British and Irish ratings
Friends was originally aired on the terrestrial Channel 4 from 1995 onwards. New episodes were then shown on Sky One in the late 1990s, although the series achieved a more mainstream audience through repeat showings on Channel 4. The program was repeated daily on Channel 4 and S4C in Wales until recently, it is still repeated twice a day on E4 with 2 back-to-back episodes. However during the summer when the 4 network is overridden by Big Brother it is repeated three times a day usually in between shows such as Hollyoaks and Big Brother's Little Brother. Friends is currently shown exclusively on Comedy Central in the UK, the episodes are available in HD for the first time in the UK market.
The Irish channel RTÉ Two was the first channel in Europe to air both the premiere and finale episodes of Friends. The show achieved exceptionally high ratings throughout the initial run, and continues to run twice weekly on RTÉ Two, and weekdays on Channel 6.
A wide range of Friends merchandise has been produced by various companies. All ten seasons have been released on DVD individually and as a box set. Warner Bros. has also talked about plans of a future Blu-ray release. Each season release contains special features and footage originally cut from the series. For the first season, each episode is updated with color correction and sound enhancement. In late September 1995, WEA Records released the Friends Original TV Soundtrack, containing music featured in previous and future episodes. In between some of the songs, there is spoken dialog from scenes from the show's first season. The soundtrack debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 46, and sold 500,000 copies in November 1995. In 1999, a second soundtrack album entitled Friends Again was released. Other merchandise include a Friends version of the DVD game "Scene It?", and a quiz computer game, entitled "Friends: The One with All the Trivia", "hosted" by James Michael Tyler, Christina Pickles, Elliott Gould and Maggie Wheeler as their respective characters from the series.
All ten seasons were re-released in region 2 on October 25, 2004. For region 1, when Season Ten was released on November 15, 2005, the WB made a limited edition box called "The One With All Ten Seasons" to fit all individual ten seasons in. The collection was cased in wood with black covering and a plastic door with all of the Friends pictured on it. One year later, the WB released The Complete Series, cased in a red box with an exclusive booklet about the show, cast, and original pilot pitch. Instead of individually boxing and organizing the shows by season, this collection organized the 40 discs into volumes sorted by how many episodes to a disc, and they were split up by a disc holder for each cast member. This version was released in the UK on 12 November 2007.
|DVD name||Region 1 release date||Region 2 Release Date||Region 4 release date|
|The Complete First Season||April 30, 2002||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Second Season||September 3, 2002||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Third Season||April 1, 2003||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Fourth Season||July 15, 2003||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Fifth Season||November 4, 2003||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Sixth Season||January 27, 2004||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Seventh Season||April 6, 2004||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Eighth Season||November 9, 2004||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Ninth Season||March 8, 2005||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
|The Complete Tenth Season||November 15, 2005||October 25, 2004||October 4, 2006|
After the series finale in 2004, LeBlanc signed on for the spin-off series, Joey, following Joey's move to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Kauffman and Crane were not interested in the spin-off, although Bright accepted to executive produce the series with Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan. NBC heavily promoted Joey and gave it Friends' Thursday 8:00 pm timeslot. The pilot was watched by 18.60 million American viewers, but ratings continually decreased throughout the series' two seasons, averaging 10.20 million viewers in the first season and 7.10 million in the second. The final broadcast episode on March 7, 2006 was watched by 7.09 million viewers; NBC canceled the series on May 15, 2006 after two seasons. Bright blamed the collaboration between NBC executives, the studio and other producers for quickly ruining the series: "On Friends Joey was a womanizer but we enjoyed his exploits. He was a solid friend, a guy you knew you could count on. Joey was deconstructed to be a guy who couldn't get a job, couldn't ask a girl out. He became a pathetic, mopey character. I felt he was moving in the wrong direction, but I was not heard."
Following the series finale, rumors began to emerge of a Friends film, although all were proven to be untrue. Rumors of a film reemerged after the release of the Sex and the City film in 2008, which proved to be a success at the box office. The Daily Telegraph reported in July 2008 that the main cast members had agreed to star in the project, and that filming was going to start within the next 18 months. A source commented that "Jennifer, Courteney and the rest of the cast are [eager] to reprise their roles, under the right circumstances [...] Jennifer says she and Courteney have already talked this summer about what they want out of a Friends movie." When asked about the film, Kudrow said that she was unaware of the talks, but expressed interest in the idea. However, the director of publicity for Warner Bros. said there was "no truth in the story", and Perry's spokeswoman added that "nothing is happening in this regard, so the rumor is false."