Friends could have turned out differently had the network got their way with adding a seventh lead character, Pat the Cop. NBC was keen on this additional friend but thankfully, the writers won that battle.
It's been a decade and a half since Friends came to an end, but it's still one of the most popular sitcoms due to its presence through syndication and streaming services. Much of the show's success is credited to the unwavering chemistry between its core cast: Monica (Courtney Cox), Ross (David Schwimmer), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc). The series would have never had such a long-term effect if the ensemble cast of characters didn't work so well together.
That chemistry could have been put to the test early if NBC got what they originally wanted. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Friends premiere, author Saul Austerlitz is releasing Generation Friends, a book chronicling the hit series (via EW). In it, he examined how NBC asked the showrunners, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, to add an older character to attract "more mature" viewers. This was the network's only request after reviewing the pilot for what was called Friends Like Us at the time. Kauffman and Crane initially went through with the idea, creating a character referred to as "Pat the Cop."
The showrunners were reluctant, but they added Pat into the script and developed him after a cop that would hang out at the movie theater when they were in college. Pat was meant to be the seventh friend, though he wasn't going to be as prominent as the younger characters. The role of Pat the Cop was cast, but there was no word who would have appeared in the role since he never made an appearance. Kauffman and Crane were so against the idea that they pleaded with NBC to cut the character until the network agreed.
In order to get NBC to drop the idea of Pat the Cop, Kauffman and Crane compromised by giving the six protagonists parents that would serve supporting roles. This would solve NBC's concern about adding mature characters while axing the idea of another friend. If it wasn't for this deal, characters like Jack and Judy Geller (Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles, respectively) may have never been introduced.
It would have been a little odd for an older man who had a more established career to frequently hang out with the core six. Pat surely would have been an outcast among the characters, since he wasn't in the same stage of his life compared to the others. Thankfully, the showrunners had the opportunity to explore their original vision for the series. Friends felt like it was best to keep Pat the Cop on the sidelines and it turned out to be the right decision.