Friends is an American sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which aired on NBC from September 22, 1994 to May 6, 2004. The series revolves around a group of friends in Manhattan. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. The original executive producers were Crane, Kauffman and Kevin S. Bright, with numerous others being promoted in later seasons.
Kauffman and Crane began developing Friends under the title Insomnia Cafe in November/December 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, including a second title change to Friends Like Us, 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 studio audience. After ten seasons on the network, the series finale was promoted by NBC, and viewing parties were organized around the U.S. The series finale (the 236th episode), airing on May 6, 2004, was watched by 51.1 million American viewers, making it the fourth most-watched series finale in television history and the most watched episode of the decade.
Friends received positive reviews throughout most of its run, becoming one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The series won many awards and was nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards. The series, an instant hit from its debut, was also very successful in the ratings, consistently ranking in the top ten in the final primetime ratings. Many critics now regard it as one of the finest shows in television history. The series made a large cultural impact, which continues today. The Central Perk coffee house that was featured prominently in the series has inspired various imitations throughout the world. The series continues in syndication worldwide. All 10 seasons are available on DVD. The spin-off series Joey was created to follow up with the series after the finale.
Friends cast in first season. Front: Cox, Aniston. Back: LeBlanc, Kudrow, Schwimmer, Perry.The main cast members were familiar to television viewers before their roles on Friends but were not considered stars. Cox had the highest profile career of the main actors when she was initially cast, having appeared in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Family Ties. Kudrow 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. Before her role on Friends, Kudrow was an office manager and researcher for her father, a headache specialist. LeBlanc had appeared as a minor character in the sitcom Married... with Children, and as a main character in its spin-offs, Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby. Aniston and Perry had already appeared in several unsuccessful sitcom pilots before being cast in Friends. Before his role on Friends, Schwimmer played minor characters in The Wonder Years and NYPD Blue. During the series' ten-season run, the actors all became household names.
In their original contracts for the first season, cast members were paid $22,500 per episode. The cast members received different salaries in the second season, beginning from the $20,000 range to $40,000 per episode. Before their salary negotiations for the third season, the cast decided to enter collective negotiations, despite Warner Bros.' preference for individual deals. The actors were given the salary of the least-paid cast member, meaning Aniston and Schwimmer had their salaries reduced. The stars were paid $75,000 per episode in season three, $85,000 in season four, $100,000 in season five, $125,000 in season six, $750,000 in seasons seven and eight, and $1 million in seasons nine and ten. The cast also received syndication royalties beginning with the fifth season.
Series creator David Crane wanted all six actors 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 salary negotiations, and asked to appear together on magazine cover photos in the first season. The cast members also became best friends off-screen, and guest star Tom Selleck reported sometimes feeling left out. The cast remained good friends after the series' run, most notably Cox and Aniston, with Aniston being godmother to Cox and David Arquette's daughter, Coco. In the official farewell commemorative book Friends 'Til The End, each separately acknowledged in interviews that the cast had become their family.
See also: List of Friends episodesThe first season introduces the six main characters: Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross. Rachel arrives at Central Perk after leaving her fiancé Barry at the altar and moves into Monica's apartment with her. Ross constantly tries to tell Rachel that he loves her, while his lesbian ex-wife, Carol, is expecting his baby. Joey is shown to be a struggling actor, while Phoebe works as a masseuse. Chandler breaks up with girlfriend Janice (Maggie Wheeler), who frequently returns in later seasons. At the end of the season, Chandler accidentally reveals that Ross loves Rachel, who realizes that she feels the same way. Tom Selleck garnered a 2000 Emmy nomination for his role as Richard.The second season begins with Rachel discovering that Ross is dating Julie (Lauren Tom), someone he knew from graduate school. Rachel's attempts to tell Ross she likes him mirror his failed attempts in the first season, although the characters eventually begin a relationship. Joey gets a part in a fictional version of the soap opera Days of our Lives, but his character is killed off after he claims that he writes many of his own lines. Monica begins dating Richard (Tom Selleck), recently divorced and 21 years her senior. In the season finale, they end their relationship when they realize that unlike Monica, Richard does not want children.
Season Three takes on a significantly greater serialized format. Rachel begins working at Bloomingdale's, an upscale department store chain, and Ross becomes jealous of her colleague, Mark. Rachel decides to take a break; and Ross, hurt and drunk, sleeps with someone else, causing Rachel to break up with him. After believing she has no family except her twin sister Ursula (Lisa Kudrow), Phoebe becomes acquainted with her half-brother (Giovani Ribisi) and birth mother (Teri Garr). Joey develops a relationship with his acting partner Kate (Dina Meyer), and Monica begins a relationship with millionaire Pete Becker (Jon Favreau).
In the fourth season premiere, Ross and Rachel briefly reconcile, but Ross continues to insist that the two were on a break. Joey dates Kathy, a theater actress, but Chandler falls in love with her only to break up when he suspects she is cheating on him with a fellow actor. Phoebe becomes a surrogate mother for her brother and his wife Alice (Debra Jo Rupp). Monica and Rachel are forced to switch apartments with Joey and Chandler after losing a bet, but manage to switch back by bribing them with Knicks season tickets and a one-minute kiss (off-screen) between the girls. Ross begins dating an English woman named Emily (Helen Baxendale), and the season finale features their wedding in London. Chandler and Monica sleep together, and Rachel decides to attend Ross and Emily's wedding. While saying his vows, Ross uses the wrong name at the altar (Rachel's), to the shock of his bride and the guests.
Season five features Monica and Chandler trying to keep their new relationship a secret from their friends. Phoebe gives birth to triplets in the show's one-hundredth episode. She gives birth to a boy, Frank Jr. Jr., and two girls: Leslie, and Chandler. (They had originally thought that there were two boys and one girl, but decided to keep the name Chandler, despite the baby turning out a girl.) Ross and Emily's marriage is called off as Emily is intimidated by Rachel, and Ross is unwilling to give up his friendship with her as Emily demands. Phoebe starts a relationship with police officer Gary (Michael Rapaport). Monica and Chandler go public with their relationship, to the surprise and happiness of their friends. They decide to get married on a trip to Las Vegas, but change their plans after witnessing Ross and Rachel drunkenly stumble out of the wedding chapel. Paul Rudd, who played Phoebe's boyfriend-then-husband Mike, was surprised when his role became recurring.In the sixth season premiere, Ross and Rachel's marriage is established to be a drunken mistake, and they divorce several episodes later. Monica and Chandler decide to move into her apartment together, and Rachel moves in with Phoebe. Joey lands a role 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 one of his students, Elizabeth (Alexandra Holden). Phoebe and Rachel's apartment catches fire, and Rachel moves in with Joey while Phoebe moves in with Chandler and Monica. Chandler decides to propose to Monica, who considers reconciling with Richard. Although Richard confesses that he still loves her, Monica accepts Chandler's proposal.
The seventh season mainly follows various antics by Monica and Chandler, who are preparing for their wedding. Joey's television series Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E is canceled, but he is offered his job back on Days of our Lives. Phoebe's apartment is fixed, but is rebuilt with only one large bedroom instead of the original two, so Rachel decides to stay with Joey. The season finale features Monica and Chandler's wedding. The friends believe Monica is pregnant after Phoebe finds a discarded pregnancy test in Monica's bathroom. At the very end, it is revealed only to the audience that Rachel is pregnant.
The eighth season's first three episodes revolve around the identity of the father of Rachel's baby. The father is ultimately revealed as Ross. Rachel and Ross decide to have the baby but do not resume their romantic relationship. Joey develops romantic feelings for Rachel, but she does not reciprocate them. Rachel gives birth to baby Emma in the season finale. At the hospital, Ross's mother offers him an engagement ring because she wants him to marry Rachel. Ross does not intend to ask Rachel to marry him, but he takes the ring anyway and puts it in his jacket pocket. Meanwhile, in the post-delivery room, Joey looks for some tissue for an upset Rachel, picks up Ross's jacket, and the ring falls to the floor. He kneels to pick it up and turns to Rachel, still on his knees and still holding the ring. Rachel accepts what she thinks is his proposal of marriage.
Season nine begins with Ross and Rachel living together as roommates with baby Emma. Monica and Chandler decide to have a child themselves but discover that they are unable to conceive. Phoebe begins dating Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd), and chooses to be with him over her ex-boyfriend David (Hank Azaria). Rachel and Emma move in with Joey in the middle of the season, and Rachel develops romantic feelings for him. The group travels to Barbados in the finale to hear Ross give a keynote speech at a paleontology conference. Joey and his girlfriend Charlie (Aisha Tyler) break up, and she begins a relationship with Ross. Joey and Rachel's feelings for each other return, and the finale ends with them kissing.
The tenth season closes several long-running storylines. Charlie breaks up with Ross. Joey and Rachel try to contend with Ross's feelings about them being together and decide to remain friends. Phoebe and Mike get married. Monica and Chandler apply to adopt a child and are chosen by Erica (Anna Faris). In the series finale, Erica gives birth to twins – a boy, Jack (after Monica's father), and a girl, Erica (named after the birth mother). Monica and Chandler prepare to move to the suburbs, and Joey becomes upset with the changes happening in his life. Rachel accepts a job in Paris, but Ross, realizing he loves her, chases after her. Rachel realizes she loves him, too, and agrees to stay with him. The series ends with all the friends plus Monica and Chandler's new babies leaving the apartment, heading to Central Perk for a cup of coffee.
|"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 that would premiere in the fall of 1994 after their sitcom Family Album was cancelled by CBS in 1993. Kauffman and Crane decided to pitch the series about "six people in their 20s making their way in Manhattan" to NBC, since they thought it would fit best there. 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, 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.
See also: The Pilot (Friends)The producers wanted Courteney Cox to portray Rachel; however, Cox instead requested to play Monica.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 applied 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, then-president of Warner Bros. Television.
Having worked with David Schwimmer in the past, the series creators wrote the character of Ross with him in mind, and he was the first actor cast. Cox wanted to play the role of Monica, but the producers had her in mind to play Rachel because of her "cheery, upbeat energy", which was not how they envisioned Monica; after Cox's audition, though, Kauffman agreed with Cox, and she got the role. When Matt LeBlanc auditioned for Joey, he put a "different spin" on the character. 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. Although Crane and Kauffman did not want LeBlanc for the role at the time, they were told by the network to cast him. Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow were cast based on their auditions.
More changes occurred to the series' storylines during the casting process. 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."
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." The creators felt that using six equal characters, rather than emphasizing one or two, would allow for "myriad storylines 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 period when Kauffman and Crane wrote the pilot script.
During production of the pilot, NBC requested that the script be changed to feature one dominant storyline and several minor ones, but the writers refused, wanting to keep three storylines of equal weight. 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 that 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 relented and dropped the idea.
Each summer, the producers would outline the storylines for the subsequent season. Before an episode went into production, Kauffman and Crane would revise the script written by another writer, mainly if something concerning either the series or a character felt foreign. 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 unlikable, 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 wanted the show neither to revolve around a baby nor pretend there to be none. 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. Kauffman and Crane would not have signed on for an eleventh season, even if all the cast members had wanted to continue.
The episode title format—"The One..."—was created when the producers realized that the episode titles would not be featured in the opening credits, and therefore would be unknown to most of the audience.
The Greenwich Village building used as the friends' apartment block in establishing shotsThe first season was shot on Stage 5 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. 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 for the series 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 were aware of the series' popularity in the UK. The scenes were shot in a studio with three audiences each made up of 500 people. These were the show's largest audiences throughout its run. The fifth season finale, set in Las Vegas, was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, although Bright met people who thought it was filmed on location.
Main article: The Last One (Friends)The cast became very emotional while filming the final episode. Jennifer Aniston explained, "We're like very delicate china right now, and we're speeding toward a brick wall."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 watched the finales of other sitcoms to prepare the episode's outline, paying attention to what worked and what did not. They liked the ones that stayed true to the series, citing the finale of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the gold standard. Crane, Kauffman, and Bright had difficulty writing the finale, and spent several days thinking about the finale scene without being able to write a word. 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 number of crew members. The main cast enjoyed the finale and were confident that the fans would react similarly: It's 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.—David Schwimmer on the series finale. 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 coffee house, 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.
In the U.S., 52.5 million viewers watched the finale on May 6, 2004, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast since the Seinfeld finale in 1998. 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 respectively watched by 105, 80.4 and 76.2 million viewers. The retrospective episode was watched by fewer than 36 million viewers, and the finale was the second most-watched television episode 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.
Early reviews of the series were mixed. Tom Feran of The 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 complimentary 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. It is now often ranked among the all-time best TV shows. Critics commended the series as having consistently sharp writing and chemistry between the main actors. Noel Holston of Newsday, who had dismissed the pilot as a "so-so Seinfeld wannabe" in 1994, repudiated his earlier 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 storylines 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." Friends was featured on Time's list of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time", saying, "the well-hidden secret of this show was that it called itself Friends, and was really about family".
|"It may have been impossible for any one episode to live up to the hype and expectations built up around the Friends finale, but this hour probably came as close as fans could have reasonably hoped. Ultimately, the two-hour package did exactly what it was supposed to do. It wrapped up the story while reminding us why we liked the show and will miss it."|
|— Robert Bianco of USA Today on the series finale.|
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 highlighting 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."
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by FriendsTo 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. Aniston and Kudrow are the only main cast members to win an Emmy, while 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 one Screen Actors Guild Award.
Set of Central Perk at Warner Bros. StudiosAlthough 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's catchphrase, "How you doin'?", became a popular part of Western English slang, often used as a pick-up line or when greeting friends. The series also influenced 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" to modify adjectives 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. Following the September 11 attacks, ratings increased 17% over the previous season.
Friends is parodied in the twelfth season Murder, She Wrote episode "Murder Among Friends". In the episode, amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) investigates the murder of a writer for Buds, a fictional television series about the daily lives of a group of city friends. The episode was devised after CBS moved Murder, She Wrote from its regular Sunday night timeslot to a Thursday night timeslot directly opposite Friends on NBC; Angela Lansbury was quoted by Bruce Lansbury, her brother and Murder, She Wrote's supervising producer, as having "a bit of an attitude" about the move to Thursday, but he saw the plot as "a friendly setup, no mean-spiritedness". Jerry Ludwig, the writer of the episode, researched the "flavor" of Buds by watching episodes of Friends.
The Central Perk coffee house, one of the principal settings of the series, has inspired various imitations worldwide. In 2006, Iranian businessman Mojtaba Asadian started a Central Perk franchise, registering the name in 32 countries. The decor of the coffee houses is inspired by Friends, featuring replica couches, counters, neon signage and bricks. The coffee houses also contain paintings of the various characters from the series, and televisions playing Friends episodes. James Michael Tyler, who plays the Central Perk manager in the series, Gunther, attended the grand opening of the Dubai cafe, where he worked as a waiter. 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. Jennifer Aniston revisited the set for the first time since the series finale in 2004. From September 24 to October 7, 2009, a Central Perk replica was based at Broadwick Street, Soho, London. The coffee house sold real coffee to customers and featured a display of Friends memorabilia and props, such as the Geller Cup from the season three episode "The One with the Football". In 2009, a dance remix of the song "Smelly Cat" became a popular Internet meme. In Beijing, business owner Du Xin opened a coffee shop named Central Perk in March 2010 based on the coffee house in Friends.
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—$7 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.
In the fall of 2001, Warner Bros. Domestic Cable made a deal with sister network TBS to air the series in rerun syndication. Warner Bros. made similar deals with various TV stations around the country. In July 2005, it was announced that Warner Bros. Domestic Cable has sold Friends to Nick at Nite to begin airing in the fall of 2011. Warner Bros. is expected to make $200 million in license fees and advertising from the deal. Nick at Nite paid $500,000 per episode to air the episodes after 6 pm for six years, through the fall of 2017. TBS also renewed its contract for the same six-year period as Nick at Nite, but only paid $275,000 per episode because airing was restricted to before 6 pm, except for the first year. In syndication until 2005, Friends had earned $4 million per episode in cash license fees, for a total of $944 million.
Friends began airing in the UK in 1995 on the terrestrial Channel 4; however, in 1996, Sky1 bought the rights to the series. Although Channel 4 continued to air episodes several weeks after their original airing on Sky1, the series was one of the network's most popular series, averaging 2.6 million viewers per episode – unlike many of its imported series (such as ER, Frasier and NYPD Blue), Channel 4 never moved it from its peaktime slot. In 1999, Channel 4 signed a £100 million deal to regain the rights to Friends and ER from Sky1. The three year deal allowed Channel 4 to air new episodes of the series in the UK first, and to negotiate pay-TV airings with other UK broadcasters. The final episode averaged 8.6 million viewers in overnight figures—more than a third of the UK's television audience at the time—and saw a peak of 8.9 million viewers. This was the highest number of viewers for any episode of Friends, beating the June 2002 episode, which drew 6.5 million viewers. Repeats of the series are shown in the UK on Channel 4 and E4. Channel 4 announced on February 10, 2010, that it is going to stop showing episodes of Friends in Autumn[when?] 2011. The British channel Comedy Central (UK) later added that it would be airing the show from Autumn[when?] 2011, due to a deal between the cable group and Warner Bros. The Irish channel RTÉ Two was the first channel in Europe to air the finale on May 24, 2004. RTÉ Two continued to air reruns after the series had finished, broadcasting for the series has now ceased, but rival channel TV3 and its digital channel 3e now air the reruns.
Friends debuted on Australian television in 1996 on the Seven Network. The Nine Network began airing the second season at the end of 1996, and continued to show the series until its finale in 2004. Network Ten announced in November 2007 that it had bought the rights to the show in Australia and aired reruns until 2008. It currently airs on GEM (a sub-channel of the Nine Network) and on pay TV channel 111 Hits.
In addition to international airings of the original series, there have been original series in other nations compared to Friends because they use the same idea of a small group of young unmarried men and women for whom dating is one shared element in their otherwise different lives. One example is the Israeli series, Srugim, a show that takes its name from the knitted skullcaps often worn by young orthodox men in Israel.
All ten seasons have been released on DVD individually and as a box set. Warner Home Video reportedly intended to start releasing the series on Blu-ray in 2010. No other release details are available, and this information must be considered unofficial until there is an announcement from the studio. Each region 1 season release contains special features and footage originally cut from the series, although Region 2 releases are as originally aired. For the first season, each episode is updated with color correction and sound enhancement. A wide range of Friends merchandise has been produced by various companies. In late September 1995, WEA Records released the first album of music from Friends, the Friends Original TV Soundtrack, containing music featured in previous and future episodes. 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 video game for PlayStation 2 and PC entitled Friends: The One with All the Trivia. On September 28, 2009 a box set was released in the UK celebrating the series' 15th anniversary. The box set contained extended episodes, an episode guide, and original special features.
Matt LeBlanc hoped that by having his own show, Joey—whom he believed was "probably the least evolved character" on Friends—would become more developed.=== Joey=== Main article: Joey (TV series)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 agreed 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.—Kevin S. Bright on the reason for Joey's cancellation.=== Film=== Following the series finale, rumors began to emerge of a Friends film, although all were proven 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. 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." Kudrow and Cox told the Associated Press in January 2010 that they had never been approached by Crane and Kauffman to make a film version of the series. However, Aniston, Kudrow and Cox all said they were open to do a Thanksgiving reunion show. In April 2011, Cox stated in an interview that she didn't believe a film would ever be made as it includes such a variety of crew and actors and to get them all together at the same time would be almost impossible.