Friends is considered one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. It’s been well over a decade since the first episode aired and it still has a massive fanbase. While it was widely watched back in the day, it’s appearance on streaming services like Netflix has introduced the beloved show to an entirely new audience in the past few years.
The show spanned an impressive ten years and even though not every episode was perfect and there were problematic moments, fans really felt like the characters were their friends and could truly connect with them. Their lines are quoted all the time and references can be overheard at parties, coffee shops, and in text messages between friends. It really was and is a pop-culture phenomenon.
However, many of these iconic quotes and moments fans know and love almost didn’t happen. The writers would add jokes last minute, cast members would refuse to participate in certain storylines, and some of the relationships on the show weren’t originally what the creators had in mind for the characters. While the show fans saw was obviously well-received, it could have looked quite different. Any show that lasts a decade is bound to go through some controversial transformations.
From casting changes to prop placement, here are the 4 Last-Minute Changes That Hurt Friends (And 16 That Saved It)
20 Saved: Having Six Main Characters
Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe are all such important characters, it’s hard to imagine the sitcom without all of them. However, when the show was first pitched, there were only supposed to be four friends. Chandler and Phoebe were originally going to be side characters who only showed up every once in a while. It’s unlikely Chandler and Monica would have married or Phoebe would have had triplets. Thankfully, that concept was changed and the group of four became six.
The two characters are so bizarre and important to the main group it’s hard to picture what this could have looked like. What is Friends without Chandler’s hilarious one-liners and Phoebe’s strange but endearing singing?
19 Saved: Phoebe Ending Up With Mike
In the earlier seasons of Friends, it was hard to tell who was endgame for Phoebe. She had never been in a serious, long-term relationship until Mike came along.
Apparently, the writers actually didn’t originally intend for her to end up with Mike. Until he came along, she was meant to be with David, her scientist ex-boyfriend who finally came back from Minsk. He and Mike both propose to Phoebe, and she chooses Mike. According to Hank Azaria who played David, Paul Rudd was so charming they changed their minds and decided Mike was endgame. While what Phoebe had with David was special, it’s clear to most people that Mike was the right choice for her.
18 Hurt: Rachel And Joey's Relationship
Out of all the storylines on Friends, the most hated one is arguably Rachel and Joey’s romantic relationship. The majority of fans you ask will admit they weren’t fans of the pairing. The relationship wasn’t planned for very long considering the actors themselves were shocked when they read the script. Matt LeBlanc was not a fan of the concept. Rachel and Joey had always been good friends and they expected them to stay that way.
Like most viewers, he didn’t understand where the romance came from. It clearly wasn’t meant to be from the beginning. The writers forced the relationship and it never really worked. Eventually, they saw the issues everyone had with the couple and put them back as just friends.
17 Saved: The Friends Peephole Frame
The frame around the peephole in Monica’s apartment is one of the most iconic set decorations of all time. People even search for it on websites like Etsy so they can have their very own frame, just like in the show. It’s such a recognizable piece.
However, a lot of people don’t realize the legendary prop was put there because of a simple mistake. It was originally a mirror purchased for the set, but it broke. Rather than throwing it away, the set designer made the last-minute decision to place it on the door. Without knowing it at the time, TV decor history was being made in that moment. It really was that simple of a mistake.
16 Saved: Not Making Monica and Joey a Couple
It’s hard to imagine Monica ending up with anyone other than Chandler. Despite that, when Friends was first pitched, she was supposed to be with Joey. The creators originally thought about pairing up the chef with the actor, because the two were supposed to be the most flirty characters likely to get together. After the two characters were actually cast, however, they decided against it. It made them seem more real and the energies between the actors just weren’t right for a romantic relationship.
The Monica and Joey fans came to know and love simply wouldn’t fit together. Their personalities don’t mesh right for a romantic relationship. With the discovery of Ross and Rachel, the show went a different direction, anyways.
15 Saved: Phoebe's Triplets
Phoebe has always been the most eccentric and free-spirited friend of the group. Not much that comes out of her mouth surprises anyone. That’s why it made perfect sense for her to choose to carry her newly-discovered brother’s triplets.
While such a big decision seems like it would have been planned from the beginning, this particular storyline wasn’t originally supposed to happen. Lisa Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy was written into the show in season four. By season five, however, Kudrow had given birth to her son so she had to pretend to be pregnant as Phoebe until the triplets were born on the show. The plot was so successful no one would know it was a last-minute change.
14 Saved: Bruce Willis Guest Starring
While Bruce Willis only appeared on Friends briefly in season six, his performance is a memorable one. He played Paul, the father of Ross’ girlfriend, and he also dated Rachel for a few episodes.
While it was pretty common for major stars to appear on the show, his reason for guest starring was a bit unusual. Willis and Matthew Perry met on another set, and the two made a bet on whether or not the film they were starring in would do well. Willis lost, so he had to appear on Friends for free. Surprisingly, Willis ended up winning an Emmy for his brief performance on the sitcom, so his guest appearance was clearly well-received.
13 Saved: Keeping Gunther Around
Gunther is an essential part of Central Perk. For years he secretly pined for Rachel and threw in snarky comments here and there. Despite being an staple character on the show, he wasn’t originally supposed to be a series regular.
James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, was just an extra when he landed his part. While most people assume he auditioned for the role, he was simply the only one able to operate the coffee machines they had on set. It was merely a happy accident that he became the Rachel-obsessed character fans love. Who would have thought being an extra would lead to a guest starring role on one of the biggest sitcoms of all time?
12 Hurt: Pete Becker's Ending
While Monica’s most popular relationships were with Chandler and Richard, there were other important boyfriends as well. Pete Becker was pretty serious with Monica until he decided to try and become the Ultimate Fighting Champion.
She thought that he was going to propose, but instead, he told her he wants to be a fighter. She tried to support him but decided to break up with him if he wanted to continue fighting. This decision was never accepted by Jon Favreau, who played Pete. He always expected a little more closure for his character than the abrupt ending he got. He thought the writers might revisit he and Monica, but they never did. It was a strange ending for the couple.
11 Saved: Changing The Name Of The Show
It’s hard to imagine that Friends could be called anything else. The title is so simple and has become so ingrained in popular culture that nothing else seems to fit.
When the show was first conceived, it actually had a different title. Creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman wanted it to be called Insomnia Cafe. After NBC bought it, they changed it to Friends Like Us. Apparently Across The Hall was also considered, and once it was shot it was called Six Of One, before they finally settled on the title fans know and love. The title changes were definitely for the best. None of the others have quite the same ring to them as Friends.
10 Saved: Casting Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe
Lisa Kudrow is the perfect Phoebe Buffay. She made the character the whimsical, quirky singer fans love. It’s hard to picture anyone else playing her, but she almost wasn’t cast. A lot of different people were considered before her.
Friends would have been totally different if Ellen Degeneres had landed the part of Phoebe after her audition. Jane Lynch and Kathy Griffin were also considered, which would have given the character a totally different vibe. When Phoebe was still supposed to be a “goth girl,” they also considered Janeane Garofalo. Thankfully they decided on Kudrow, which is one of the best casting decisions they made. The show wouldn’t be the same without her kooky, hippie energy.
9 Hurt: Ben's Disappearance
In the early seasons of Friends, Ross’ son Ben is a major part of his storyline. From Carol telling him she’s pregnant to Rachel trying to babysit, he was around quite a bit. In the later seasons, however, Ben practically disappears. There are tons of fan theories as to where Ben could have gone, from boarding school to Ross losing custody of him. The most realistic reason, though, is that the writers simply stopped including him in episodes.
It sure seems like a strange last-minute shift that they would stop including Ross’ son. Perhaps it was because of scheduling conflicts and they thought it was better to keep Ben away than try to work him in. Fans have never been satisfied with his disappearance, no matter the reason.
8 Saved: Changing The Actress Who Played Carol
While people tend to forget after watching more than the first few episodes of Friends, the actress who played Carol, Ross’ ex-wife, changes after the character’s first appearance. Anita Barone was originally cast to play her, but the writers changed people last minute because she wanted to pursue a more full-time role. Brone only appeared one time. Jane Sibbett went on to fill the role, with zero explanation to the change on the show.
Sibbett made appearances as Carol in quite a few episodes over the show’s ten season run. The switch was positive, however, because Sibbett played the character so well that fans forget there was ever another actress. With that kind of success, it’s possible that Barone regrets turning down the part.
7 Saved: Joey's Doodles
Friends has such a major following that viewers are always finding little details to focus on, especially during rewatching. Any real fan would know that the little doodle board on the back of Joey’s door always had a new drawing in each episode.
People would watch a new episode just to get a glimpse of the Manga Doodle board to try and see what was on it that week. Each drawing was a last-minute change that they would include when filming. Such a simple little prop made such a big difference to viewers. With the HD remasterings available now, it’s even easier for fans to figure out what hangs on their door in each scene.
6 Hurt: Ross Saying The Wrong Name At His Wedding
One of the biggest cliffhangers in Friends history was when Ross said the wrong name at he and Emily’s wedding. The “take thee Rachel” line has haunted fans for years. While it certainly was massive, a lot of people also found it incredibly irritating.
Oddly enough, his slip up wasn’t even originally the plan. The cliffhanger was a mistake made by David Schwimmer. While it was in a different scene than the wedding, Schwimmer said “Rachel” instead of “Emily” and the writers knew it was perfect. A lot of fans, however, don’t find the moment so perfect. While it was surprising, the entire Emily storyline is heavily debated online and people find she and Ross annoying.
5 Saved: Monica And Chandler's Relationship
While Monica and Chandler ended up being a major couple on Friends, their relationship wasn’t planned from the start. The concept just kind of came to the writers. Ross and Rachel were the couple at the core of the show, not Monica and Chandler. When the show was first conceived, Monica was supposed to end up dating Joey. The idea she and Chandler getting together wasn’t pitched until season three.
Courtney Cox and Matthew Perry already had great chemistry and the writers wanted a break from the Rachel and Ross drama, so Monica and Chandler just naturally happened. While some Friends fans wanted the pair to get together for a while, most people didn’t see their relationship coming.
4 Hurt: Chandler's Orientation
Throughout the ten seasons of Friends, both fans and characters alike questioned Chandler’s orientation. Even Lisa Kudrow thought he might be gay. There were fans of Friends who thought maybe he had feelings for Joey, his coworkers always believed he was gay, and Mr. Heckles thought he might be, too. The show clearly poked around the concept that he may not be straight for a while.
However, the writers insist he was straight from the beginning. If the show was made a decade later, it’s possible he would have been written differently. Many fans were actually upset when his orientation was shut down so quickly and wish there was better LGBTQ representation on the show.
3 Saved: Jennifer Aniston Playing Rachel
Rachel is one of the most popular sitcom characters of all time. Women have attempted to mimic her hair and her fashion sense for years, and she and Ross’ relationship helped make the show. That’s why it’s impossible to picture anyone else but Jennifer Aniston playing her, but she almost wasn’t in the show.
When Friends first came to be, Aniston was already starring in another comedy. She would only be able to do other shows if that one was cancelled. Thankfully for Friends fans, the other show was cancelled and she stepped in as Rachel. It was clear that Aniston was perfect for the role, and the creators were so grateful when she signed on.
2 Saved: Keeping Joey and Phoebe Just Friends
Almost all of the main characters on Friends ended up in couples. Ross ended up with Rachel and Monica ended up with Chandler. That just leaves Phoebe and Joey. While Phoebe did marry Mike, fans always wondered if she ever got together with Joey.
The two did kiss on a few occasions, but apparently they never did more than that, despite both Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow being all for the concept. They actually pitched the idea that the two had always been getting together. Their friendship was so close, however, it was for the best they never got together. Fans liked that the two just remained close, platonic friends, showing it was possible for opposite-gender friends to stay best friends without any romance.
1 Saved: Ross And Rachel Ending Up Together
The Ross and Rachel romance was at the center of Friends throughout it’s ten seasons. Fans were overjoyed when the two ended up together in the finale after dealing with their will-they-won’t-they tension for years.
It’s hard to imagine, but that ending almost didn’t happen. The producers almost left their relationship up in the air, or didn’t have them end up together at all. If she had never gotten off the plane, there would have been chaos. Fans would have been incredibly upset. There was no other way for the show to end than with their romance finally coming together. It was just too obvious to all the fans Rachel and Ross should be a couple.
Are there any other last minute changes that hurt or saved Friends? Let us know in the comments!