Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman on the episode they cut, creating the show, and its legacy

Friends’ six big stars may be the faces of the series, but Marta Kauffman was the woman running the show.

The co-creator of the iconic NBC sitcom, which is now streaming on Binge, is who we have to thank for coming up with the idea for a TV show about six friends living in New York City, which was based on her own life experiences with her best friend and fellow creator, David Crane.

And while Friends remained controversy-free during its 10-season run, Kauffman told they filmed an episode that – if it had have gone to air – would have been a PR disaster.

“The only [episode] that didn’t make it to air was right after 9/11, we had an episode where Chandler and Monica were going on their honeymoon,” Kauffman said.

“Chandler made a joke at security about why he would never have a bomb.

“We had to throw that out and come up with a new story. We were very fortunate [it hadn’t aired].”

The first episode of season eight, which followed the seventh-season finale where Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) were married, aired in the US on September 27, 2001.

It was dedicated to “The people of New York City” to pay tribute to those suffering as a result of the terror attacks.

Friends first aired in 1994 and by the end of the first season, was a rocket to the moon.

Kauffman, 63, came up with the famous Central Perk setting of the show after driving past a coffee shop.

“We’d done a show before with a single lead and this time we wanted to do an ensemble show, so we started to talk about David (Crane) and my life back in New York, and the friends we had there and the life we created for ourselves and thought, ‘That might be interesting’.

“Because it’s about a time in life when love is in front of you, and your career isn’t quite established, and you’re going through all these universal things.

“And then when I was driving in Los Angeles I saw a sign for a coffee shop that was called ‘Insomnia Cafe’ and I went, ‘That’s a great set’.”

One episode which didn't make it to air was right after 9/11, where Chandler made a joke at security about a bomb. Photo / Getty Images
One episode which didn’t make it to air was right after 9/11, where Chandler made a joke at security about a bomb. Photo / Getty Images

Friends dished up some hilarious lines in its 236 episodes, including “pivot!” and “we were on a break!”

As for that pivot scene, which was David Schwimmer’s line, Kauffman said they had to do “about seven takes” because everyone couldn’t stop laughing.

“That night we did the scene where Ross had to move the couch, the pivot scene, I mean I don’t know that any of us had ever laughed that hard,” she said.

“The line was in the script but he did it so brilliantly. [The actors] elevate the material.

“We would have to do a lot of takes when [the actors] would crack up but for the most part they were so good.”

More than 52.5 million viewers tuned in on May 6, 2004 for Friends’ finale episode, making it one of the most-watched TV finales of all time.

It managed the hard-to-achieve feat of winning over its devout fanbase with a goodbye full of surprises, tears and, most importantly, laughs.

Kauffman admits there was significant pressure in the planning process to get it right.

“We did not know when the show started where it was going to end up, we didn’t know Ross and Rachel would have the chemistry they had, we didn’t know Monica and Chandler would either, these opportunities presented themselves to us,” she said.

“But we did know we wanted [the finale] to be surprising. The whole thing was, ‘How can we give the audience what it’s hoping for, but still make it surprising and dramatic?’.

The cast of friends and executive producers including Marta Kauffman. Photo / Getty Images
The cast of friends and executive producers including Marta Kauffman. Photo / Getty Images

“It was very challenging to write and come up with.”

One of the best lines was the very last word spoken, courtesy of Chandler Bing, when the gang suggested they go and get coffee to lighten the sombre mood.

“Where?” Chandler asks. Given they spent most of their lives at Central Perk coffee shop, it was the dream way to soften the blow when the closing credits rolled.

But Kauffman said she can’t remember who came up with the zinger.

“David and I had this rule where we wouldn’t take credit for a joke individually, whatever it is we wrote, so I have gotten into the habit of not remembering who wrote what joke.

“I honestly don’t remember who wrote [Chandler’s] joke, I’d like to say it was me, but I don’t know.”

While it was captivating television that won over the world, Friends is also celebrated for its stamp on popular culture history, something Kauffman never intended to achieve.

“You don’t intend to have an impact on pop culture when you write a TV show, you just want to write something people will watch,” she said.

“You hear things like these baseball players who learnt English just from watching Friends.

“Honestly, it’s something that’s very difficult to process and very hard to imagine.

“The fact it had that impact was certainly secondary to the experience we were having of just trying to make a good TV show.”

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