Friends


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

Friends is an American sitcom that ran for ten seasons on NBC as part of the Must-See TV Thursday lineup, from September 22, 1994 to May 6, 2004. It was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and produced by David Crane, Marta Kauffman and Kevin Bright.

This Emmy award-winning show – Best Comedy Series for season eight (Television Academy, 2002) – tells the story of six friends in their twenties living in New York City. Each episode focuses on the everyday struggles of young adults, such as their love lives, their jobs, and their relationship with their parents.

Kevin Bright, who directed several episodes and worked on the post-production of the entire series, claims that the production team did not want to make another sitcom about a family seated in a living room, which was the common formula until then. They decided to write a series about their own experiences living in New York City, when young adults go out into the world after college and their friends become their extended family (Bright, 2016). In this case, the extended family is composed of Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), a great cook and chef who is obsessed with cleanness and tidiness; Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), a recently divorced, geeky paleontologist in love with Rachel since they were teens; Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), a spoiled rich girl who is trying for the first time to live on her own; Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), Ross’s old college roommate with a sarcastic sense of humor and who has a job with numbers that nobody understands; Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), a sexy but dumb actor who is often unemployed; and Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), a new-age, street-smart masseuse/musician whose most famous song is called "Smelly Cat" (Crane & Kauffman, Friends, 1994).

Each character has their own set of skills and unique personality traits, which were developed across time. Author Judy Kutulas notes, “as series added more dimensions to characters, those characters became increasingly relatable to viewers” (Kutulas, 2018). Part of the characters’ personalities was shaped by the relationship they had with their parents. “Initially, the series needed to demonstrate that the characters’ nuclear families would not or could not adequately prepare their offspring for the modern world, followed by its ongoing celebration of the Friends’ superior ability to perform those same tasks” (Kutulas, 2018). That principle was used in several episodes for comedic effect. In the pilot episode, for example, Rachel attempts to explain to her father how she feels about life by making the following analogy:

Rachel: Daddy! Daddy, listen to me! It's like all my life everyone's told me, "You're a shoe! You're a shoe! You're a shoe!" Well, what if I don't want to be a shoe? What if I wanna be a purse or a hat? No I don't want you to buy me a hat, I'm saying I am a hat. It's a metaphor Daddy!
Ross: You can see where he'd have trouble. (Crane & Kauffman, The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate, 1994).

The pilot episode was directed by James Burrows and it was responsible for shaping the entire series. Burrows recounts in his interview for the Television Academy Foundation that he read the script and loved it from the get-go: It was a show composed of vignettes – three stories going on in each episode that interwove very well (Burrows, 2003). The pilot revolves around Monica going on a date with “Paul, the wine guy”, Ross moving into a new apartment after having divorced his lesbian wife, and Rachel having to deal with the aftermath of having left her groom Barry at the altar. One of the iconic scenes from Friends is certainly of Rachel barging into the café Central Perk, where the friends were hanging out, in a wedding dress and all wet, looking for her old friend from high school Monica, who had not been invited to the wedding.

In the very same episode, we are also presented with the longest arc of the series, the romance between Rachel and Ross. This will-they-won’t-they love story was carried throughout the ten seasons, going from the friend zone, to being in a relationship, to having a falling-out when Ross slept with another woman because they “were on a break” (Crane & Kauffman, The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break, 1997), to getting drunk-married in Vegas and then divorced, to having a baby out of wedlock, and to finally, in the series finale, getting back together. David Crane and Marta Kauffman explain that carrying out that story arc for so long was a strenuous process, but they knew that Ross and Rachel had to be together at the end (Crane & Kauffman, 2010).

James Burrows believes that working with the ensemble cast was a gift from God: they were all young, funny, had never been seen before, and had a lot of chemistry among them (Burrows, 2003). The series became an immediate hit and led all the six actors to stardom. Crane and Kauffman say that the sudden fame did not affect the work per se, but it did affect the schedule, as the actors started getting other work as a result of the star status (Crane & Kauffman, 2010).

Friends’ popularity is off the charts: it was always among the top ten shows watched on television throughout the entire course of the series; catchy phrases from the sitcom are still quoted by legions of fans (“How you doin’?”; “Pivot, pivot”; “We were on a break!” “Unagi”); Jennifer Aniston’s haircut was copied by women around the globe and was named “The Rachel”; and more recently, when Netflix announced that it would exclude Friends from its platform, fans loudly complained and demanded that they keep the show in their content list (Flint, 2018).

The theme song “I’ll Be There For You” was co-written by David Crane, Marta Kauffman, and her husband Michael Skloff for the opening of Friends. They were looking for a catchy tune, with a Beatles’ vibe. The lyricist Allee Willis wrote the words to the song. Later on, they invited the duo The Rembrandts to record the single and it became a radio success, topping the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart for several weeks (I'll Be There for You (The Rembrandts song), 2019). Author Lynn C. Spangler justifies the success of the song observing that it touched “a nerve in its expression of youthful struggle and the importance of friendship” (Spangler, 2003).

Another interesting fact about the music in Friends is that the producers wanted to use master recordings of popular songs, which made the show even more relatable to its audience. In the episode “The One with the List”, Ross dedicates the song “With or Without You” by the rock band U2 to Rachel on the radio and it was solidified as their love song (Crane & Kauffman, The One With the List, 1995).

Marta Kauffman believes she has a little bit of Monica in her own personality, while David Crane is more like Chandler and Ross (Crane & Kauffman, 2010). Kevin Bright believes that the characters also grew and evolved from the actors, who brought much of themselves into the series. The show was rooted in real experiences and Bright believes that the success of the sitcom is highly associated with the fact that they told universal stories that appealed to the general public (Bright, 2016). Author Lee Siegel says “Friends ennobled the setback, lent dignity to ordinary experience, proclaimed mere survival a triumph greater than wealth, or success, or fame” (Siegel, 2007).

Friends tackled several controversial topics for its time, such as having a lesbian couple raising a child, Phoebe being a surrogate mother for her brother’s triplets, and Chandler’s father being a transgender woman, among others. Marta Kauffman is particularly proud of having endorsed safe sex throughout the series, making sure there were always condoms around when the characters were to engage in intercourse (Crane & Kauffman, 2010). Famously, in “The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies”, Rachel and Monica battle for the last condom in the apartment, making it very clear that the couple that did not have protection, would not have sex (Crane & Kauffman, The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies, 1996).

Ultimately, Friends’ continued success can be attributed to its relatability factor: “The Friends became the support group to help one another traverse the shoals of adulthood, particularly sex and love, interpersonal relationships, and careers” (Kutulas, 2018), topics to which we can all relate. Kevin Bright believes that the legacy of the show is that wherever you are, even if you’re in a strange place where you are feeling uncomfortable and down, you can always turn to Friends, because they will be there for you (Bright, 2016).

-Elisa Herrmann, MFA, Department of Mass Communication, Sam Houston State University, May 2019

PRODUCED BY

Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television.

CREATED BY

David Crane and Marta Kauffman

CAST 

Jennifer Aniston
Courteney Cox
Lisa Kudrow
Matt LeBlanc
Matthew Perry
David Schwimmer

OPENING THEME

"I'll Be There for You" by The Rembrandts

NUMBER OF SEASONS

10

NUMBER OF EPISODES 

236

PRODUCTION

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS

David Crane, Marta Kauffman, Kevin S. Bright

Michael Borkow (season 4)

Michael Curtis (season 5)

Adam Chase (seasons 5–6)

Greg Malins (seasons 5–7)

Wil Calhoun (season 7)

Scott Silveri (seasons 8–10)

Shana Goldberg-Meehan (seasons 8–10)

Andrew Reich (seasons 8–10)

Ted Cohen (seasons 8–10)

LOCATIONS

Warner Bros. Studios
Burbank, California

CAMERA SETUP

Film; multi-camera

RUNNING TIME 

20–22 minutes (per episode)
22–65 minutes (extended DVD episodes)

PRODUCTION COMPANIES

Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions
Warner Bros. Television

DISTRIBUTOR

NBC
Warner Bros. Television (worldwide)

BROADCAST

Original channel NBC

ORIGINAL RUN

September 22, 1994 – May 6, 2004

SOURCES

Bright, K. (2016, March 29). Kevin Bright - Producer. Television Academy Foundation: The Interviews. (J. Matz, Interviewer)

Burrows, J. (2003, December 2003). James Burrows - Director. Television Academy Foundation: The Interviews. (G. Rutkowski, Interviewer)

Crane, D., & Kauffman, M. (2010, October 10). David Crane & Marta Kauffman - Producer, Show Creator. Televison Academy Foundation: The Interviews. (B. Cochran, Interviewer)

Crane, D., Kauffman, M. (Writers), & Bright, K. (Director). (1994). Friends [Motion Picture].

Crane, D., Kauffman, M. (Writers), & Lembeck, M. (Director). (1996). The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies [Motion Picture].

Crane, D., Kauffman, M. (Writers), & Burrows, J. (Director). (1994). The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate [Motion Picture].

Crane, D., Kauffman, M. (Writers), & Burrows, J. (Director). (1997). The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break [Motion Picture].

Crane, D., Kauffman, M. (Writers), & Place, M. K. (Director). (1995). The One With the List [Motion Picture].

Flint, J. (2018, December 04). Netflix Renews ‘Friends’ Rerun Deal. The Wall Street Journal.

I'll Be There for You (The Rembrandts song). (2019, January 07). Retrieved January 25, 2019, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ll_Be_There_for_You_(The_Rembrandts_song)#Chart_performance

Kutulas, J. (2018). Anatomy of a Hit: Friends and Its Sitcom Legacies. The Journal of Popular Culture, 1172-1189.

Siegel, L. (2007). Not Remotely Controled: Notes on Television. New York: Basic Books.

Spangler, L. C. (2003). Television Women From Lucy to Friends: Fifty Years of Sitcoms and Feminism. Westport: Praeger Publishers.

Television Academy. (2002). 54th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners. Retrieved 01 25, 2019, from Television Academy: https://www.emmys.com/awards/nominees-winners/2002/outstanding-comedy-se...

Highlights
Lisa Kudrow on creating "Phoebe" as a character on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends theme song, "I'll Be There For You"
Kevin Bright on the casting of Friends
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
Peter Bonerz on the Friends ensemble and their characters
Lisa Kudrow on the legacy of Friends and the message of the show
Who talked about this show

Hank Azaria

View Interview
Hank Azaria on guest-starring on Friends

Peter Bonerz

View Interview
Peter Bonerz on the experience of directing Friends— on the writing, the ensemble
Peter Bonerz on the Friends ensemble and their characters
Peter Bonerz on the Ross/Rachel kiss from the Friends season two episode "The One Where Ross Finds Out"
Peter Bonerz on the Friends ensemble and their characters

Kevin Bright

View Interview
Kevin Bright on he, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane selling Friends to NBC
Kevin Bright on the casting of Friends
Kevin Bright on how Friends responded to 9/11
Kevin Bright on how somewhat dramatic storylines were included on Friends
Kevin Bright on James Burrows directing the pilot of Friends
Kevin Bright on the opening credits of Friends (which almost didn't come to be) and how the theme song was written
Kevin Bright on the role of music on Friends, and the fact that they used the "real" version of popular songs, not covers
Kevin Bright on the opening credits of Friends, which featured the cast playing in a fountain
Kevin Bright on network input on Friends
Kevin Bright on Friends becoming a hit in its first season
Kevin Bright on how the instant success of Friends affected the cast and creators
Kevin Bright on his role on Friends during a typical week on the show
Kevin Bright on directing episodes of Dream On and Friends
Kevin Bright on his favorite Friends episodes he directed
Kevin Bright on his father appearing on two episodes of Friends
Kevin Bright on Friends' Emmy wins, and the fact that it didn't win any until the show's eighth season
Kevin Bright on the decision to have a tenth and final season of Friends
Kevin Bright on the finale of Friends, which he directed
Kevin Bright on why Friends was so successful
Kevin Bright on the legacy of Friends
Kevin Bright on Friends streaming on Netflix and its popularity with young people
Kevin Bright on the Friends spin-off, Joey
Kevin Bright on the casting of Friends

James Burrows

View Interview
James Burrows on directing Friends  and knowing it would be a hit; on the cast

David Crane

View Interview
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on getting a mistaken Emmy nomination for Friends, due to a teleprompter error
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how Friends came about
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on coming up with the characters on Friends, and on using their own lives for inspiration
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on NBC's response to the Friends pilot, and on suggestions Warren Littlefield and audience research made for the show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on coming up with the title for Friends, and on their initial time slot
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on casting Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how they divided their responsibilities on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends writing staff
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the process of writing Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on planning out story arcs on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on writing the final episode of Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the friendships among the cast of Friends, and on how celebrity impacted them
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how Friends impacted American culture
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the possibility of doing a Friends reunion show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on getting a mistaken Emmy nomination for Friends, due to a teleprompter error
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how Friends came about
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on coming up with the characters on Friends, and on using their own lives for inspiration
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on NBC's response to the Friends pilot, and on suggestions Warren Littlefield and audience research made for the show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on coming up with the title for Friends, and on their initial time slot
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends characters as they had imagined them in their original script, and why each actor was right for his or her role
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how James Burrows set the tone for Friends in the pilot and what he brought to the show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends theme song, which was written by Kauffman's husband, Michael Skloff, (music) and Kauffman and Crane (lyrics)
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends opening title sequence
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on working with the cast of Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on Friends moving to NBC's "must-see TV" Thursday night lineup
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how 9/11 affected production on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on "Monica's" fat suit on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the "Ross/Rachel" story arc on Friends, and on audience reaction to their relationship
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the success of Friends throughout its 10 years on the air
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on casting Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how they divided their responsibilities on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends writing staff
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the process of writing Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on planning out story arcs on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on writing the final episode of Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the friendships among the cast of Friends, and on how celebrity impacted them
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how Friends impacted American culture
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the possibility of doing a Friends reunion show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on their proudest achievement, Friends - "it was perfect"
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends characters as they had imagined them in their original script, and why each actor was right for his or her role
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how James Burrows set the tone for Friends in the pilot and what he brought to the show
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends theme song, which was written by Kauffman's husband, Michael Skloff, (music) and Kauffman and Crane (lyrics)
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the Friends opening title sequence
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on working with the cast of Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on Friends moving to NBC's "must-see TV" Thursday night lineup
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on how 9/11 affected production on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on "Monica's" fat suit on Friends
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the "Ross/Rachel" story arc on Friends, and on audience reaction to their relationship
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on the success of Friends throughout its 10 years on the air
David Crane and Marta Kauffman on their proudest achievement, Friends - "it was perfect"

Danny DeVito

View Interview
Danny DeVito on his Friends appearance as "Uncle Herb"

Elinor Donahue

View Interview
Elinor Donahue on her appearance on Friends

Pamela Fryman

View Interview
Pamela Fryman on directing Friends

Michael Fuchs

View Interview
Michael Fuchs on developing HBO's Dream On

Marta Kauffman

View Interview
Marta Kauffman on seeing the cast of Friends after the show ended, and on missing the show

Lisa Kudrow

View Interview
Lisa Kudrow on how she would describe "Phoebe" on Friends; on her strengths and weaknesses
Lisa Kudrow on how Friends was first described to her; on the casts' first table read
Lisa Kudrow on "Smelly Cat" and other popular Friends songs her character sang
Lisa Kudrow on the Friends episode where "Phoebe" seduces "Chandler"; on whether there could be a reunion
Lisa Kudrow on how the production worked around shooting her "twin" on Friends
Lisa Kudrow on shooting the final episode of Friends and the one item she has from the set, given to her by Matthew Perry - a cookie jar
Lisa Kudrow on the legacy of Friends and the message of the show
Lisa Kudrow on being initially cast as "Roz" on Frasier, then being subsequently let go after the pilot was shot
Lisa Kudrow on hearing about the Friends script and auditioning for the role of "Phoebe"
Lisa Kudrow on her audition for "Phoebe" on Friends; on meeting James Burrows a second time
Lisa Kudrow on how her Mad About You guest-role contributed to creating "Phoebe's" twin sister "Ursula" on Friends; on the difference between the roles
Lisa Kudrow on getting a TV Guide "Cheers" for her "Ursula" character on Friends  
Lisa Kudrow on creating "Phoebe" as a character on Friends
Lisa Kudrow on casting Friends; on Matthew Perry being the last actor cast
Lisa Kudrow on the evolution of her Friends' character "Phoebe"; on how her own pregnancy was handled on the show
Lisa Kudrow on working with Teri Garr on Friends as her mother on the show
Lisa Kudrow on shooting the Halloween episode of Friends right after 9/11
Lisa Kudrow on Phoebe's wedding on Friends; on working with Paul Rudd
Lisa Kudrow on the finale of Friends
Lisa Kudrow on her favorite episodes of Friends; on the flashback episodes
Lisa Kudrow on whether there could be a Friends reunion; on where "Phoebe" would be today
Lisa Kudrow on creating "Phoebe" as a character on Friends
Lisa Kudrow on the legacy of Friends and the message of the show

Warren Littlefield

View Interview
Warren Littlefield on the development of Friends

Leslie Moonves

View Interview
Leslie Moonves on the casting of Friends
Leslie Moonves on the development of Friends

Laraine Newman

View Interview
Laraine Newman on guest-starring on Friends

Don Ohlmeyer

View Interview
Don Ohlmeyer on Friends
Executive Don Ohlmeyer on the costly negotiations to keep ER at NBC

Thomas Schlamme

View Interview
Thomas Schlamme on directing Friends
Thomas Schlamme on directing the "The One with the Lesbian Wedding" episode of Friends

Lew Schneider

View Interview
Lew Schneider on how the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond reacted to the harassment lawsuit against Friends

John Shaffner

View Interview
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 
John Shaffner on designing the set for Friends
John Shaffner on his process of set designing week-to-week
John Shaffner on creating iconic set designs
John Shaffner on working with the cast of Friends and other performers in set designs
John Shaffner on creating "swing sets" for Friends
John Shaffner on the legacy of Friends from a design standpoint
John Shaffner on the set designer community in television 
John Shaffner on his day-to-day duties as set designer for Friends 

Sam Simon

View Interview
Sam Simon on directing an episode of Friends and his directing in general

Marlo Thomas

View Interview
Marlo Thomas on guest starring on Friends;  on positing that "Rachel" is a modern "That Girl" 

Jeff Zucker

View Interview
Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
Jeff Zucker on telling the cast of Friends about his idea to "supersize" the show's episodes
Jeff Zucker on his pride in having been able to keep Friends on the air longer than had been expected and the difficulty for the network in finding another show that would be as big of a hit
Jeff Zucker on his work to keep Friends on the air longer than was expected and the difficulty in finding an equally successful show once it ended
Jeff Zucker on the Friends  spin-off, Joey, and its ultimate failure

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