Entertainment & Arts

Looking back at Friends - 10 years later

David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry spent many a moment wisecracking on the sofa with a beer

How you doin'?

Well, maybe you're feeling a little nostalgic, because it's exactly 10 years since the final episode of the most successful sitcom in history aired in Britain.

After 10 seasons of watching New York's favourite twenty-somethings fall in love, split up, get hired, get fired, get stranded, get pregnant, we waved farewell to Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe.


Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry starred in 10 seasons of Friends

And those recent rumours of a reunion episode have been scotched because, as Matt LeBlanc, who played the loveable but clueless Joey Tribbiani, observed: "That show was about a finite period of time in life, after college and before your relationship and family starts and where your friends are your support system.

"That's what the magic of the show was - everyone goes through that and can relate to that."

Things have changed in the decade since. For one, the final episode was actually broadcast in the UK three weeks after it aired in the US - without pirate copies and spoilers flooding the internet.

For aficionados, many aspects of the show have passed into legend - but here are 10 things you might not know:

1) The original theme tune was to be REM's Shiny Happy People.

It was used in the pilot, when the show was called Friends Like Us, but was replaced by I'll Be There For You, which was co-written by the show's creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, and performed by The Rembrandts.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The lives of Phoebe, Rachel and Monica were also intertwined

It was originally only a minute long, but when a radio DJ made a three-minute loop, the group knew they had to make a full-length rewrite.

"Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it," said lead singer Phil Solem.

It reached number one in the US and number three in the UK - where it sold more than 600,000 copies - but it would remain the band's only hit.

Their follow-up, This House Is Not A Home, limped into the UK charts at number 58.

2) David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry were such unknown quantities in 1994 that US newspapers tried to promote Courteney Cox as the "star" of the cast - based on her recurring role in the sitcom Family Ties and a fleeting appearance in a Bruce Springsteen video.

In fact, Joey and Monica were even supposed to be the main couple.

The show's creator Marta Kauffman explained: "They just seemed the most sexual of the characters."

3) Matt LeBlanc was down to his last $11 when he auditioned. He had a cut on his nose from falling over drunk and hitting his face on a toilet seat the night before. When they received their first pay cheques, Courteney Cox, who played Monica, celebrated by buying a Porsche.

LeBlanc bought a hot meal. "Friends, when it came my way, was my fourth TV series - and the other three had failed," he said. "I had exactly $11 in my pocket the day I was hired. I had to go back and read for the part of Joey a total of six times. It was far from certain I would get the role."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption During the show's run the characters swapped homes across a hallway in a New York apartment building

4) The character of Gunther was meant to be a non-speaking part and he didn't even have a name until the second season.

The actor, James Michael Tyler, got the role because he worked in a coffee shop and knew how to operate an espresso machine. He even kept his day job during the first four seasons of Friends.

"I had several different types of jobs, but at the time that Friends started, I was working in a coffee shop in Los Angeles called the Bourgeois Pig," said Tyler.

"I was a barista there but had been doing extra work off and on for someone who had become the second assistant director on Friends.

"He called me up and said: 'Hey, I know you're working at that coffee shop, and we have a coffee shop set in this new show that's gonna go six episodes, at least, called Friends. Would you be interested in coming in one day a week?' and I think at that time extra pay was $45 a day."

5) Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston had the same lunch on set every day for 10 years - a Cobb salad.

"I'm so tired of that salad, but it is easier just to say, 'Oh, I'll take what she's having!'" Cox told Oprah Winfrey as the show drew to a close in 2004.

But she later admitted to the Los Angeles Times it hadn't been a Cobb salad at all...

"It was a salad Jennifer doctored up with turkey bacon and garbanzo beans and I don't know what. She just has a way with food, which really helps. Because if you're going to eat the same salad every day for 10 years, it'd better be a good salad, right?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bruce Willis (pictured with Schwimmer) appeared in the show for nothing after losing a bet with Matthew Perry

6) The famous framed peephole in Monica's front door was originally a mirror but a member of the crew accidentally smashed it. Set designer Greg Grande decided he liked the look and left the frame in place.

Grande was responsible for the show's innovative decor - the first time a TV sitcom was based in an apartment that genuinely felt "lived-in".

"These were young, struggling Generation X-type characters who had to struggle to make a dime," he said. "Their furnishings came from swap meets, thrift stores.

"The ironic thing is that when people watch the show, their first response is: 'How can they afford a space like that?' But if you look at each piece, you truly could've gone and found each one of those pieces at an [affordable] place. That's how Monica's came about."

7) Bruce Willis guest-starred free in two episodes after losing a bet with Matthew Perry on the film set of The Whole Nine Yards. Perry bet him that The Whole Nine Yards would top the US box office, and he won. All future payments for his appearance were donated to charity.

8) TV Network NBC made $70m (£42.5m) from the final night of Friends, thanks to advertisers who paid $2m (£1.2m) for every 30-second slot.

It was a record haul for an entertainment show, with the price tag per advert only slightly below that for the Super Bowl.

The profits had to be offset against the cast's stellar wages, though. Having grouped together to negotiate their salaries, they were earning $1m (£600,000) per episode for the last few seasons.

That inflated the cost of the show to $10m (£6m) per episode, almost 20 times the normal price of a studio sitcom.

At times, the network made a loss on the show, according to the Los Angeles Times - which may have influenced its decision to replace the sitcom with the much cheaper reality series The Apprentice.

Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption The cast agreed to negotiate their pay together

9) Marcel the Monkey - actually a female named Katie - got a Hollywood movie deal before any of the cast. She starred in Outbreak.

10) The cast were just as sad about the show ending as the audience were.

"This is gutting us," said Jennifer Aniston during the last week of filming. "We're like very delicate china. We're speeding towards a brick wall. Inevitable pain."

"And we're going to smash into a million pieces," added Lisa Kudrow. "It's a deeper loss than I was expecting."

Matt LeBlanc was less sentimental, noting that Joey Tribbiani had taken up "a third of my life".

The show's heartwarming farewell, filmed in January 2004, allowed the six characters to move out of New York, and on to the next stages of their lives.

"What we hope is that people feel good about saying goodbye to them, and that they're all going to be OK," Kauffman said.

The final scene was shot on Stage 24 at Warner Bros Studios, where Friends had been filmed since its second season. After the show wrapped up, the stage was renamed The Friends Stage.

Related Topics

More on this story