There is only one TV comedy show we can stand reruns of more than once. That show is Friends. We may know all the lines off by heart, and we may have pie charts of which Friends have swapped bodily fluids with which other Friends, but trust us — true comedy gold never gets old. Now just in case you were thinking there is nothing to milk out of the show anymore other than Friends-a-thons and screenings of the various films featuring ex-cast members — from the perfect Office Space to the less than illuminating The Ron Clark Story — you would be laughably wrong.
Former NBC president Warren Littlefield is releasing a new book on the history of the television network during the 1990s wonder years of Friends. He adapted part of the book for Vanity Fair recently, but if seven pages of text is a drag we understand entirely. Read on for the best bits of the best bits of Littlefield’s Friends moments, taken straight from the horse’s mouth.
Matt LeBlanc on his studio test: “It was between me and this guy — his last name was Yeager, I think. He was dressed in a denim jacket, jeans, cowboy boots. I think he had a cowboy hat with him, but he didn’t have it on. I looked at him and thought, One of us is way off the mark. God, I hope it’s you.”
David Crane on Matt LeBlanc: “Joey was never stupid when we pitched the show. He wasn’t stupid until we were shooting the pilot, and somebody said, ‘Matt plays dumb really well.’”
David Schwimmer on the rapport: “The miracle is the casting. Having been on the other side of it now in terms of directing and producing, to find one magical actor who is just right for the role is difficult enough, but to find six and then to have them actually have chemistry with each other is just kind of a miracle. I think we were just lucky. I looked at the five of them, I watched their work, and I thought, Everyone is just so talented and perfect for their character. And they grew into their characters and enriched them and deepened them.”
David Crane on pitching it to the director, Jimmy Burrows: “The first four minutes of the pilot were just the group sitting in the coffeehouse talking about nothing. Chandler has had a dream. Ross comes in, and he’s mopey. It’s just talk. There’s no movement. There’s no story. When Jimmy read it in our first meeting, he said, ‘It’s great. It’s radio.’ The fact that he got that and embraced it made all the difference.”
Lisa Kudrow on Courteney Cox: “There’s a code with actors. Actors don’t give each other notes under any circumstances. So she was giving us permission to give her notes, and we all agreed that that would be great. Why not? And she also said, ‘Listen, you know, we all need to make this thing great.’ She just set the stage with: ‘I know I’m the one who’s been on TV, but this is all of us.’ She was the one who set that tone and made it a real group that way. And I thought that was a real turning point.”
Jim Burrows on celebrating the pilot’s success: “Based on the [live] audience for the Friends pilot, I knew how popular that show would be. The kids were all pretty and funny, so beautiful. I said to Les Moonves, who was head of Warner Bros., ‘Give me the plane. I’ll pay for dinner.’ I took the cast to Vegas.”
Matt LeBlanc on the commitment: “It wasn’t like we were in college together. We were on a giant fucking television show together. Everybody worked really hard. Lisa Kudrow said it best. She said that she worked harder on these relationships than she did on her marriage.”
John Agoglia (former head of business affairs, NBC) on negotiating contracts: “We convinced ourselves that we’d be better off with the cast if we recognized their success early instead of waiting until their contracts ran out. Chemistry was crucial to that show, and it was important to keep the cast happy. We started giving them raises as they were going along. At one point David Schwimmer’s mother convinced the cast to negotiate as a group. She’s a prominent divorce attorney. Her license plate is EX BARRACUDA.”
Marta Kauffman on The Couple: “The Ross-and-Rachel thing was fascinating. My rabbi, when I dropped my daughter off for Hebrew school, would stop me and say, ‘When are you going to get them together?’”
David Crane on writing the final season: “We talked about doing a qualified ending… they’re not together together, but there’s the hope they can be together. We said, ‘Fuck it. We’ve jerked these people off for 10 years. Who are we kidding? We’ve just got to do it well.’”
Matt LeBlanc on his Friends: “There’s only five people in the world who know exactly what being on Friends was like, other than me. There’s five of them. David, Matthew, Lisa, Courteney, and Jen. That’s it. Marta and David were close, but when they left the stage, no one knew what they did. We could never leave the stage, metaphorically speaking. Still can’t. Still on that stage. That will follow us around forever.”
[via Vanity Fair]