Everything about “The Friends” TV Show: how it was filmed, cast, history, useful links, fun facts. All in one place
A Brief History of the Origin of the Idea
We tell you how the most successful series in the history of television was created.
“Friends” authors Crane and Kaufman met while still students at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. After receiving their graduate degrees, they moved to New York City together, where they worked at a Broadway theater. Beginning in the late 1980s, Crane and Kaufman wrote several scripts for television shows.
In 1993 David Crane and Martha Kaufman wrote the concept of several episodes for a new series about six young people who move to New York City after college and begin their independent lives. The writers pitched the idea for the new show, called Insomnia Cafe, to a producer they knew, Kevin Bright, who in turn pitched the idea to NBC.
At the same time, Warren Littlefield, president of NBC Entertainment, was anxious to launch a new show on the channel that would talk about the youth of the 1990s, but all the scripts he got his hands on seemed to fail. It was at that very moment that David Crane and Martha Kaufman’s project fell to Littlefield. Despite the fact that the screenwriters flatly refused to focus on today’s youth, and focus on showing the lives of friends starting their independent lives, Littelfeld agreed to produce several episodes as an experiment.
The show “Cafe Insomnia” was decided to be renamed “Friends Like Us” (the name was later changed) and three days later Crane and Kaufman provided Littlefield with the script for the first episode. The project was welcomed; Warren Littlefield later recounted that when he approved the script for the first episode of Friends, he received calls from almost every actor’s agent in town trying to get his clients into the promising new project.
Casting for the main roles took place simultaneously in Los Angeles and New York. The initial list of applicants included more than 1,000 actors, then the number was reduced to 75 candidates for each role, of which Crane, Kaufman, and Bright chose several dozen main candidates.
For the role of Ross Geller, the authors from the very beginning planned to invite David Schwimmer, and for the role of his lover Rachel Green actress Courteney Cox.
The actress herself, who by that time had already managed to star in several notable films, asked to give her the role of Monica, to which she was refused. Later, David Crane said that Cox seemed to all “too energetic and positive for the role of Monica,” which according to the script should have been more serious. However, Courteney Cox, given a chance, and at the audition for the actress was so comically portraying her future heroine, that it was almost unanimously decided to give her the role of Monica Geller.
Some difficulty arose in finding an actor to play Joe.
According to the script, the character named Joe Tribbiani was supposed to be a shallow, heartless womanizer, but actor Matt LeBlanc, who was liked by the producers and unexpectedly became one of the main candidates for the role of Joe, did not fit the vision of the writers.
In the end, Crane and Kaufman up to the last moment refused to approve his role and agreed only under pressure from the studio. After a while, it was possible to find other main roles – Jennifer Aniston got the role of Rachel Green, actress Lisa Kudrow the role of Phoebe Buffay, and a young Canadian actor Matthew Perry got the role of Chandler Bing joker.
After all the actors for the main roles had been chosen, Crane and Kaufman began writing the episodes. Many of the original ideas had to be rewritten to fit the new characters, so, for example, while the love line between Ross and Rachel was planned from the beginning, the idea of an affair between Joe and Monica had to be abandoned. David Crane later recounted that he also didn’t realize how ridiculous Monica’s prejudices might look until the first Thanksgiving episode. Crane and Kaufman were assisted in writing the episodes by a team of seven young screenwriters, the decision to involve them being made by the writers themselves, believing that together they would be able to bring more variety to the characters of the main characters.
Filming of the first season of Friends began in the summer of 1994 at Warner Bros. Studio 5 in California. Each episode took about six hours to produce. Curiously, despite the fact that according to the script the friends live in New York, not a single shot (except for the title shot) was made in that city. All filming took place in the California studio pavilions, and only some episodes were shot in London and Las Vegas.
The series “Friends” premiered on NBC on September 22, 1994, the first episode of the new show was watched by 22 million viewers
The series “Friends” has gained incredible popularity and has become one of the most successful television projects around the world. The show went on for 10 seasons (a total of 236 episodes were filmed), for which the creators received 56 awards and another 155 nominations at various festivals around the world. In 2003, Jennifer Aniston won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Show. The series has won six Emmy Awards, has been selected six times by American audiences as “the most beloved series” and twice won the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
MTV Youth Channel, in its “101 Facts Why the 1990s Rocked” program, ranked “Friends” as the fifth most memorable and significant event of the 1990s. NBC paid about $10 million for each episode of the show’s 10th season, a record for television.
The last episode of Friends was aired on May 6, 2004. It was seen by 52.5 million viewers, the highest number of viewers on television in the previous six years.
So far, there are rumors that NBC is planning to shoot a new series with the characters of “Friends” – Joey, Chandler, and Ross. However, there is no official confirmation of this information. From time to time, there is news in the press that David Crane and Martha Kaufman are getting ready to shoot a feature film about “Friends”, but the series creators themselves do not stop to say that they are not planning any sequels for their characters, even if all the series’ stars suddenly agree to shoot. The actors themselves in numerous interviews, although they admit their love for their characters, answer that they gave “Friends” too much as it is.
How The Friends episodes were filmed
The filming of Friends took place in large studio spaces with a live audience. The crowd recounted the events of past episodes, and during the breaks, there were contests or comedians. The writers did everything to make sure that people in the audience were not bored and could consciously follow the action.
Not only did this approach help the actors better immerse themselves in their roles, but it also allowed them to understand which jokes “worked” for the audience and which did not. If the audience’s reaction was not satisfactory to the writers, they would ask whether the humor in a particular scene was understandable. In extreme cases, the script was rewritten on the fly. With all the operational changes, filming an episode took about six hours.
As for the technical equipment on the set, the cameramen filmed each moment with four cameras to allow maximum creative freedom for the editors. In post-production, almost every background sound was also re-recorded, whether it was the shuffling of shoes or the rustling of flowers thrown on the ground.
The music for each scene was also chosen manually by a separate sound engineer. In other words, the production of the series was quite a labor-intensive affair that required maximum commitment from everyone involved – the writers often spent nights in the studio.
Netflix played a big part in keeping Friends up to date. Despite the fact that the show already attracted a weekly audience of 16 million Americans during the showings on TV, Netflix gave users the opportunity to “overdose” on the series. And that strategy paid off.
After the show became available to viewers of the streaming service worldwide in early 2018, it quickly became one of the most-watched. The company doesn’t share exact numbers, but the fact that Netflix executives paid Warner Bros. about $100 million for the ability to air “Friends” in 2019 confirms that the show has become very important to the service.
However, the cooperation between the companies will end on this deal: in 2020, the sitcom will move to HBO Max – the new home for the content of Warner Bros., HBO, CW and many other studios. Apparently, WarnerMedia bosses make a big bet on “Friends” and are not going to share the rights to the show with any of the competitors.
Thanks to Netflix, a new generation of viewers born at the very end of the 90s or in the 21st century has become familiar with the series. And they, too, are able to associate themselves with the main characters, who, it would seem, should forever remain a reflection solely of their era. One reason for this is the universality of the humor, based on life situations that are familiar to everyone: even teenagers.
Even during the preparation of the show, the studio bosses wanted to make “Friends” a series exclusively about Generation X – those whose youth came right in the 90s. But Kauffman and Crane were against it: they thought the show should be understandable to any viewer, regardless of age.
This is partly why college graduates wrote the scripts-they, more than anyone, understood how scary it was to enter into an independent life not planned in advance by wealthy parents. Many, if not all, people felt the same way.
The fears about the future, but also the conviction that life should be enjoyed here and now, are successfully incorporated into the six main characters. Their characters are varied–the viewer is almost certain to find a character similar to himself or one of his friends.
Joey is a young actor, confident that he is sure to succeed if he only works with small roles for a few years.
Rachel is a spoiled girl from a rich family who tries to prove to her parents that she can live independently, but she does it rather spite her relatives.
Ross is a scientist who has survived a failed marriage and is trying to overcome his complexes.
Monica is a playgirl who has managed to cope with her overweight problem but now likes to lecture other people.
Chandler is a young man with the trauma of his parents’ painful divorce, for whom sarcasm is a protective response to external stimuli.
Finally, Phoebe is the odd girl who lives on her own wavelength but helps people every chance she gets.
The series gives you a chance to watch a whole decade in the life of characters who are completely different from each other, going from young people with unclear prospects to confident people. And that journey is filled with a million amusing jokes and the characters’ interactions with each other – so lively that you want to watch constantly. Surely many viewers have at least once allowed the thought, “I wish I had friends like that.” This seemingly innocent wish reveals another reason why the show remains relevant.
The authors and actors succeeded in creating a cozy world filled with optimism and the conviction that all will be well in the end. Unfortunately, today’s reality is far from that. Eternal problems (financial, political, social) were certainly present in the past, but they are particularly acute in our time. Often, people are left alone with their problems: family cannot help, and reliable friends can not always be found.
The problem of loneliness also does not depend on age – anyone can find themselves in a similar situation. In Britain, for example, it has been found that today’s teenagers often suffer from loneliness, and one of the most popular TV series among them is “Friends”.
Residents of the other most developed countries in the world believe that life has become much darker and harder compared to the carefree, in their opinion, the 90s. Therefore, for many, a sitcom is an opportunity to enter a world free of all problems, and at least temporarily forget about their worries.
“Friends” is really a product of its era. A series with similar humor is almost impossible to make nowadays: local jokes about everything in the world can seem offensive to some people. Besides, on modern television, only cheerful projects are not very relevant.
Many modern soap operas, even sitcoms, concentrate on the problems of life. They are undoubtedly very interesting to watch, but it is unlikely that the viewer will want to be there with the characters – what is happening is too similar to real life, full of problems. Therefore, escapism is another feature of Friends, which is difficult to recreate in current conditions.
There is little humor in the sitcom about current technologies: the Internet, phones, or social networks. But despite this, the jokes from “Friends” are also understood by the new generation. This once again shows that the authors were able to tell about the universal problems, understandable to everyone. It does not matter if the viewer knows how to use a computer or not.
Some criticize “Friends” for its lack of representation and a large number of jokes about sexual minorities. However, it is hardly fair to reproach the writers for neglecting the issue of inequality. For example, at the very beginning of the show, they introduce a love relationship between two women, a few years before same-sex marriages will be allowed in New York.
This creative solution was considered quite progressive in those years because marriage was shown not as something strange, but as a very ordinary thing. However, the writers did not forget to joke about it: Ross often has to hear jokes that his wife left for another.
It’s interesting that not only fans are celebrating another anniversary of their favorite TV series: Warner Bros. joins them as well. So, in 2014, the studio invited everyone to visit a cafe decorated in the style of “Central Coffee House. In 2019, it won’t stop there.
Rumors of a “Friends” sequel or reboot come up periodically, but the writers confidently say that nothing of the sort will happen. Martha Kauffman and David Crane are confident that they will not be able to top what they have already done, and that for the aging characters, friends are by no means family anymore. Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry agree with them: they are sure that it makes no sense for the company to return to the screens.
Where were the cafe scenes in the TV series Friends filmed?
According to the plot, the main characters of the series “Friends” live in Manhattan, but in fact, the show was almost never filmed in New York.
Most of the filming took place at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, and the season four finale was filmed in London. Almost all of the famous locations in Friends, from Monica’s apartment to the Central Perk coffee shop, are pavilions in the California studio.
For a long time, fans thought that the fountain that appears in the “Friends” intro was somewhere in New York City. But no – it, too, is at Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank.
FOUNTAIN OF TITLE CREDITS
“We had no idea that the series would become so popular. There were a lot of things we didn’t understand until the end. For example, why do we have to climb into the fountain and dance in it, “- said Jennifer Aniston once in an interview, remembering the work on the series” Friends.
Other real locations from New York City include the office buildings where the characters worked. For example, Chandler’s office is on W 57th Street, Rachel’s store is on Third Avenue, and the diner where Monica worked was rented in a former restaurant on Sixth Avenue.
The museum where Ross worked
“The New York Museum of Prehistoric History” is the place where Ross worked, where he had his first night with Rachel, and where he had his nervous breakdown over a sandwich. It’s a fictional establishment. In real life, we go to the American Museum of Natural History.
29 facts about The Friends TV show
1. During the filming of the pilot episode, the crew was worried that viewers would not like the behavior of Monica (the character of Courteney Cox), who slept with a guy named Paul on the first date. Therefore, it was decided to conduct a poll in the studio to find out the audience’s opinion about it.
2. Martha Kauffman, the executive producer, said that during the filming of the show, there was a certain problem related to gender inequality – one of the show’s creators turned out to be a real misogynist. After he made some comments about the women involved, she sent him a basket of pantyhose, tampons, and cosmetics
3. It took several hours to shoot the title sequence, in which the main actors dance around the fountain
4. For the first time Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer all met together at the table to read the script. However, some of them had already met during the auditions.
5. When the series “Friends” was released, critics gave it a rather low rating and noted that if its creators want a sequel, they should take care to make it much funnier
6. At the time of casting, David Crane, one of the show’s producers, believed that Monica (Courteney Cox) and Joe (Matt LeBlanc) would be one of the main couples in the series
7. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) were originally minor characters
8. Matthew Perry admitted that he knew Friends was going to be a real hit after the seventh episode of the first season, which was called The One With the Blackout. In this episode, lights go out all over New York City and Chandler (Perry’s character) finds himself locked in a bank lobby with Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre.
9. While filming the second episode of season three, called The One Where No One’s Read, Matt LeBlanc dislocated his shoulder. In the scene where Joe and Chandler are fighting for a chair, Joe missed and fell badly during one of the takes
10. Bruce Willis, who starred in the show, donated his fee to three charities. He did this because he lost the bet to Matthew Perry. The actors, who starred in the film “The Whole Nine Yards” (The Nine Yards), argued about where the film would be at the box office in the first weekend after its premiere. Perry believed that the picture “shot” immediately and will be a leader in the first weekend, and Willis was of a different opinion. In the end, Matthew won.
11. Matt LeBlanc admitted that when he happens to turn on the show on TV, sometimes he can’t remember starring in that episode-so many of them have been filmed. He said the whole job was like “one long episode”
12. And Courteney Cox, for example, forgot that Phoebe married Mike. She doesn’t even remember if she was in that scene
13. The main actors of the show never liked the title song I’ll be there for you
14. Courteney Cox was the only member of the main cast who was not nominated for an Emmy for her work on the show
15. Lisa Kudrow actually hated playing the guitar.
I didn’t like the guitar. I didn’t understand anything about it. I think I even asked once, what if my character played the bongos?
– she recalled.
In the end, even hired a guitar teacher for Kudrow, but these lessons did not last long. After learning a couple of chords, the actress decided that this would be enough for Phoebe. This, by the way, did not prevent the song “Smelly Cat” (Smelly Cat) to become so popular. On the contrary, it contributed to it.
16. Many viewers at first thought Chandler Bing was gay. And even Lisa Kudrow! When she first read the script, she thought Chandler would be dating men on the show. Fans of “Friends” debated the sexual orientation of Perry’s character for the first few seasons of the show
17. Pregnancy Lisa Kudrow was not contrary to the script of the show (in 1997, the actress was pregnant with her son Julian), as her character on the show was to become a surrogate mother for her brother’s triplets. But the pregnancy of Courteney Cox in the plans of the creators of the series was not included, because Monica on the script could not have children. Pregnancy actress Coco’s daughter had to hide with special costumes and props
18. In the credits of the first episode of the sixth season of “The One After Vegas”, all the main characters were given the last name Arquette. It was the first episode since Courteney Cox married David Arquette and took a double last name. The main cast followed her example – all the main actors changed their last names for a while. The episode was about “Courteney and David finally getting married.”
19. Matthew Perry struggled with alcohol and drug addiction while filming the series. In 1997, the actor went to rehab for his addiction to prescription illegal drugs and alcohol. In 2001, he underwent a second course of treatment.
I had an excruciating hangover. Eventually, it got so bad that I couldn’t hide it, and everyone knew about it,
– he later confessed.
20. Before each new episode, the main actors all gathered together to prepare for the show. According to David Schwimmer, before filming the last episode he felt a lot of excitement and sadness, as he knew that this “ritual” would be the last one.
“I was so afraid of this moment. We just all hugged together before we went out on the set. I looked everyone in the eye and wished “good show.” And I knew that this time would be the last time we would be in our little circle”
– he said.
21. The “Friends” series still has a great influence on contemporary pop culture as well. For example, Camille Cabello’s song Havana, which includes the phrase “He didn’t come up with that ‘How are you doing?” was inspired by a quote from Joe Tribbiani
22. The Central Perk Cafe, where the characters of the series regularly spent time, never really existed. Nevertheless, a few years later its replicas appeared in other cities of the world. In 2010, a Chinese fan opened a copy of the fictional New York cafe in Beijing, and in 2012 another Central Perk establishment appeared in Liverpool
23. The premiere of the final episode of Friends was watched live by nearly 53 million viewers
24. The success of the sitcom had an impact on the wallets of the actors
Matt LeBlanc admitted that at the time of the audition he had exactly $11 in his account. The first thing the actor did when he got his first check was to buy himself a decent hot dinner. The first three seasons of Friends received $22,000 per episode. In 1997, their royalties rose to $100,000 an episode. Well, and for each episode of the final season, each of the Friends received $1 million
25. Alas, the film academics were not so fond of Courteney Cox
Despite the fact that the actress with enviable regularity was nominated for an Emmy, the coveted statuette she never managed to hold in his hands. She is the only one of all the Friends who never got this honor.
26. The 30-second commercial in the final episode in the UK cost £1.2 million
Or $1.8 million. This record has not been broken by any other show on TV.
27. During the third season, Friends was in dire need of money, and in order to save money, episode 1 of season 3, “The Episode Where No One’s Ready,” was filmed from the comfort of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, with no guest stars
28. There was a mirror on Monica’s front door from the beginning. But it was broken by someone from the film crew. But even the empty frame from the mirror looked good and they decided to keep it
29. Speaking of legends
The legendary friendliest coziest and most popular sofa from Central Coffee House was actually gathering dust in the basements of Warner Brothers, from where it was fortunately retrieved by the decorator of “Friends.”