Conception

 

David Crane and Marta Kauffman began developing three new television pilots, which would premiere in the Fall 1994 season, following the cancellation of their sitcom, Family Album, by CBS in November 1993. Kauffman and Crane decided to pitch the series about “six people in their 20s making their way in Manhattan” to NBC, which they felt best suited the network’s style. 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 F.R.I.E.N.D.S 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.

 

Casting

 

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. The producers wanted Courteney Cox to portray Rachel; however, Cox refused and asked to play Monica. Kauffman said that Cox had “this cheery, upbeat energy”, which was not how they envisioned Monica. When Cox auditioned for the role, the producers were surprised by her direction of the character and she was cast. 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 forced 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.”

 

Writing

 

In the weeks after NBC’s pick up of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, 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 utilizing six equal characters, rather than emphasizing one or two, would allow for “myriad story lines 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 the 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 story lines 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 which 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. They believed that sitcom audiences generally refer to specific episodes of a show by the most memorable event of the episode, and decided to name their episodes in that format.

 

Filming

 

The first season was shot on Stage 5 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. The 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, F.R.I.E.N.D.S 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’ large following in the UK. The scenes were shot in a studio with three audiences of 500 each, the show’s largest audiences throughout its run. The fifth season finale, set in Las Vegas, was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, although Bright encountered people who thought it was filmed on location.

Source: wikipedia.org

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