Why critics slammed Friends when it premiered

·News Reporter
·3-min read

On September 22, 1994, we met Monica, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross when Friends made its debut.

The characters’ relationships, timeless jokes, and the catchy ‘I’ll Be There For You’ opening credits song by The Rembrandts are still prevalent in popular culture today - 27 years after hitting our screens for the first time.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Cast of Friends. Source: Getty Images
The world met the Friends' cast in 1994. Source: Getty Images

Humble beginnings

Creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman originally pitched Friends under the title Insomnia Café, describing is as being “about sex, love, relationships, careers, [and] a time in your life where everything’s possible.”

As NBC was already dominated by successful sitcoms Seinfeld, Mad About You and Frasier, Crane and Kauffman were determined to make the Friends pilot a hit.

Over 1,000 actors replied to the callouts for each role, including Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch who auditioned for Phoebe, and Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack who auditioned for Ross.

Eventually, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry were cast, and all met for the first time on April 28, 1994.

'The Pilot' vs Seinfeld

"The Pilot", also known as "The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate", "The First One" and "The One Where It All Began", officially aired on September 22, 1994.

As the gang hangs out at Central Perk, Chandler tells a story about a disturbing dream he had, Joey makes fun of Ross, Phoebe cleanses Ross’s aura, Monica talks about an upcoming date, and Ross complains that he wants to be married again. Then, on queue, Rachel enters wearing a wedding dress.

Although Chandler and Phoebe were initially written to be comedic relief side-characters, their appearance in The Pilot struck a chord with the 22 million viewers, and they soon became recurring characters in the series.

Audiences quickly connected with The Pilot and the remainder of Season One, but critics were far from impressed, as similarities to other popular comedies shone through.

Critics Tom Feran, Ann Hodges and Robert P Laurence slammed the show in their columns, calling it “vaguely and less successfully on the hanging-out style of Seinfeld”, “the new Seinfeld wannabe,” and “Seinfeld plus two, or Ellen plus five.”

The cast of Friends (minus Lisa Kudrow). Source: Reuters
Despite critics slamming it as a wannabe Seinfeld the show got high ratings almost immediately. Source: Reuters

‘Because you’re there for me too’

Boasting an impressive 62 Emmy nominations, 6 Emmy wins, a place on IMDB’s 100 Best Shows of All Time list, an overall rating of 8.8/10 and countless mentions in popular culture, Friends became much more than a sitcom to many.

Today, 17 years after the Friends finale aired, many still cite that the welcoming vibe of Friends has helped their mental health, and even saved their life.

The Friends Reunion, which aired on May 27, 2021, was watched by millions who have kept the six in their hearts since first watching the show.

Now that the much-loved show is airing on many popular streaming services, youngsters are still discovering the adventures of Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and Ross.

Could we BE more grateful for Friends?!

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