Hands up which Friends plot twist you didn’t love. Chandler’s work stint in Oklahoma? Ross popping the question to Emily? Rachel accepting Joey’s non-proposal? Anything to do with Rachel and Joey’s ‘romance’?
With 236 episodes over 10 hugely lucrative seasons, Friends saw the iconic Central Perk Six navigate around three plotlines per show, or 708 stories all up.
And while fans of the sitcom think most of what happened to Monica, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe and Joey was pretty much perfect, executive producers Kevin Bright, David Crane and Marta Kauffman have revealed they have regrets.
Speaking at Friends’ 25th-anniversary panel at the Tribeca TV Festival on September 13, Kauffman singled out two specific stories that don’t sit comfortably with her these days.
And they all involve one character.
The main plotline Kauffman regrets? “The stalker. David Arquette,” she said.
“We did a lot of rewriting on that to make that work.”
In 1996 episode The One with the Jam, guest star David Arquette’s character Malcolm stalked Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) after thinking she was her twin sister, Ursula.
Despite first trying to set him straight, Phoebe ended up rationalising Malcolm’s behaviour and falling for him. She even invited Malcolm to stalk her instead of Ursula.
(In real life, Arquette married Kudrow’s co-star Courteney Cox in June 1999.)
Kauffman added she “wasn’t sure that chickenpox worked either,” referring to an episode in Friends’ second season where Phoebe’s sailor boyfriend (Charlie Sheen) caught chicken pox from her during an on-shore reunion.
While writing the stalker story was tough, Bright – who directed The One with the Jam – said another difficulty with it was that Kudrow struggled with scenes where both Phoebe and Ursula appeared.
The star’s older sister Helene helped make the scenes with her, but “Lisa did really not have a good time doing them,” said Bright.
“She did not like acting with a double and I think in a way she might’ve made it more difficult because her double was her actual sister.
“So those scenes were a bit tricky to shoot but ended up being a lot of fun when you put it together.”
Kudrow’s real life also spilled over into the show when she was pregnant with her son Julian, now 21.
Friends creators wrote the real-life bump into the show in season four, making Phoebe a surrogate for her brother’s triplets.
“We weren’t ready to have a baby on the show,” Crane said.
“And so this seemed like it was weird and different and could also give us lots of comedy and lots of stories.”
When Kauffman and Crane catch reruns of Friends – which rarely happens, they said – they both feel certain plot decisions suck the fun out of watching.
“I don’t watch the show at home, but occasionally if I’m traveling it’ll be on,” Crane said.
“And sometimes I’ll see something and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that actually holds up!’ And there are times where I’m like, ‘Yeah, alright, really? We went with that?’”
Kauffman agreed, but didn’t go into detail.
“I watch the show once in a while and it’s much harder for me to enjoy the good moments when there are moments in it that I’m just going, ‘Oh my God, we let that happen?'” she said.