Friends is a pretty permanent fixture at this point after being off the air for more than a decade, and etched in our memories from repeated watchings. But there are a surprising amount of fun facts about Friends that almost made it a completely different show. And I'm not just talking about little things like the title almost being Six of One, or the apartment numbers changing in the first season — we're talking about huge, mind-blowing changes. The sort of changed that if they'd been implemented, the show would have been completely different. Unrecognizable.
It's an intense thing to ponder, and honestly a little scary to dig into, because so many elements had to fall perfectly into place for us to end up with the show that so many of us love today, but bear with me, here. Somehow, against all odds, we ended up with the perfect actor in each role, bringing to life Chandler Bing, Phoebe Buffay, Rachel Green, Monica and Ross Geller, and Joey Tribbiani. It's a phenomenon many have tried to replicate since, but one that no one has succeeded with so far. And once you take a look at the 13 ways the series almost came together in an entirely different way, I think it'll give you a whole new appreciation for exactly what we got.
1. If Monica And Joey Had Gotten Together
These two were the original relationship that was supposed to anchor the series, not Monica and Chandler. It was only after seeing the real-life chemistry between Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry that the writers decided to pair them up instead.
2. If Courteney Cox Had Been Cast As Rachel
Even though I could never imagine Cox in any other role, she was initially offered the part of Rachel, but turned it down because she saw more of herself in Monica. And for her part, Jennifer Aniston was initially supposed to audition for Monica, but after reading the script she was more drawn to Rachel. Talk about Bizarro World.
3. If It Was Only About The Main Four
Believe it or not, from the outset, Chandler and Phoebe were supposed to be secondary characters, with Monica, Joey, Rachel, and Ross getting the majority of screen time. Luckily, Perry and Lisa Kudrow are such talented comedic actors that it didn't take long for this to become a true ensemble cast, with everyone sharing focus pretty equally. But can you imagine if it was a foursome instead of a sixsome? So weird.
4. If Hank Azaria Had Played Joey
DOES NOT COMPUTE. NEED TO LIE DOWN. And yet, not totally out of the realm of possibility. Azaria he says he auditioned twice for the role of Joey even after he'd been rejected, because he was so desperate to play him.
5. If Jon Favreau Had Played Chandler
Favreau later joined the cast as Monica's super-wealthy boyfriend Pete Becker, but was initially auditioning for Chandler. Could I be any more glad that Perry walked away with it?
7. If Ellen DeGeneres Had Played Phoebe
This one went way beyond just auditioning for the role, because Ellen was actually offered the role of Phoebe and turned it down. And with anyone else, I'd be marveling right now about what a mistake that was, because look how successful Friends turned out to be... but in Ellen's case, I think she ended up right where she should be, doing exactly what she should be doing. And same with Kudrow, so it all worked out.
8. If The Show Had Taken Place In A Diner
Early on, writers got notes that the show should take place in a diner instead of the coffee shop they'd chosen, because higher-ups worried that a coffee shop was "too trendy" and wanted a vibe a little more like Seinfeld. It doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it could have potentially changed the entire tone of the show, so I'm really glad they stuck with Central Perk.
9. If Kudrow Hadn't Gotten Pregnant In Real Life
When Kudrow became pregnant with her son Julian in 1994, the writers created a storyline for her character Phoebe to get pregnant as well, so they wouldn't have to hide her belly. But since they didn't want to have to keep working a baby into Phoebe's storyline forever more, they got creative and made her offer to be the surrogate for her brother Frank and his wife Alice, which is much more on-point for the character.
10. If Aniston Hadn't Gotten Out Of Her Competing Contract On CBS
When Friends scripts started getting sent out during the casting process, Aniston was already committed to a show called Muddling Through at CBS, and it looked like she might not be able to get out of it. But Friends shot the pilot with her and loved her, so after pulling some strings and promising to pull her from the show if Muddling Through was a hit, they got CBS to release the hold, and the rest is history.
11. If Phoebe And Joey Had Been Hooking Up The Whole Time
This was an idea that Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc actually pitched to producers near the end of the series, that their characters had had a friends with benefits thing going on all along. They didn't go for it, but can you imagine how much it would've changed the way you watched the show if they had?
12. If Jennifer Aniston Wasn't So Busy Filming During The Last Season
The good news is, the show made Aniston famous. The bad news is, that fame ended up conflicting with the final season of friends, as it meant they had to tailor their filming around her movie schedule, ultimately cutting down the season from its usual 24 episodes to a measly 18. That's six lost hours of Friends! Anything could've happened!
13. If Joey Hadn't Been A Dummy
It's hard to imagine now, but Joey Tribbiani wasn't necessarily written as one of the duller crayons in the box. That was something that Matt LeBlanc suggested after reading the script and getting to know the character, and now I wouldn't have it any other way.
If even one of those things had changed, we would've had a completely different show on our hands, so when you think about it, it's pretty amazing that everything fell into place the way it did. Don't mess with perfection, people.
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