TV & Movies

29 Years Ago, Courteney Cox Appeared In This Show Months Before Friends Premiered

The one where Monica Geller was on Seinfeld.

SEINFELD -- "The Wife" Episode 17 -- Pictured: (l-r)  Jerry Seinfeld as himself, Courteney Cox as Me...
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Do you ever rewatch a show and see one actor from an iconic TV series appear in another show’s universe as a completely different character? This is exactly how this writer felt when rewatching the Seinfeld episode “The Wife,” which featured a cameo from Monica Geller herself, Friends star Courteney Cox.

In the episode, which aired on March 17, 1994, Jerry’s dry cleaner offers him a family and friends discount for returning a locket. Upon hearing this, Jerry’s current girlfriend, Meryl (Cox), says that she’s Jerry’s wife. They maintain the facade both at his apartment and the dry cleaner, which ultimately comes back to bite them when Jerry’s Uncle Leo finds out about his “marriage” and tells his whole family. Meanwhile, Meryl finds what appears to be another woman’s clothing among their shared dry cleaning, just as Jerry’s fear of commitment emerges, and the relationship winds up not working out.

Rewatching the episode is, for lack of better words, trippy. Seeing guest stars appear in your favorite show is always a delight — a special treat, even. However, seeing Monica Geller show up at Jerry Seinfeld’s Upper West Side apartment can throw you through a loop for a minute. When actors best known for famous TV portrayals appear in another show’s universe, it can feel like a fleeting dream crossover. For instance, when rewatching Season 5, you may be wondering about the role-reversal of seeing The White Lotus’ Tanya McQuoid — a then-unknown Jennifer Coolidge — playing Jerry’s masseuse girlfriend. Another example is the Sex and the City and Seinfeld worlds colliding, when Kristin Davis has a cameo in the eighth season as another one of Jerry’s love interests. Sex And The City didn’t premiere until the year after her appearance, but watching now fans couldn’t help but wonder what Charlotte York sees in Jerry.

(FWIW, Jerry Seinfeld and Monica Geller are two very tidy people — so it could happen!)

Six months after this Seinfeld episode dropped, Friends would premiere on NBC and become a cultural juggernaut.

While her character’s appearance was brief, Cox used her experience from Seinfeld to help the Friends cast develop their characters. “Courteney Cox was the best known of all of us, and she had done a guest star on Seinfeld,” Lisa Kudrow told Vanity Fair in 2012 about her Friends co-star. “She said, ‘Listen, I just did a Seinfeld, and they all help each other. They say, ‘Try this,’ and ‘This would be funny.’”

Cox continued, according to Kudrow: “‘You guys, feel free to tell me. If I could do anything funnier, I want to do it.’ There’s a code with actors. Actors don’t give each other notes under any circumstances. So she was giving us permission to give her notes, and we all agreed that that would be great. Why not?”

Ultimately, Cox’s initiative helped the Friends cast figure out their place in the show throughout its 10-year run. “She was the one who set that tone and made it a real group that way,” Kudrow concluded. “And I thought that was a real turning point.”