In 2018, one would be hard-pressed to find someone living in North America who has never heard about the classic sitcom that is Friends. Even the people I know who despise the show and refuse to watch a single episode could name every single member of the main cast and summarize their basic character types. Neurotically neat people are still referred to as Monica’s, whiny boys who feel entitled to their female friends' affections are Rosses, and everyone thinks that they are the Chandler of their friend group. Let’s be real. 90% of the boys who think that they are a Chandler, or even a Joey, are clearly a Ross. Growing up as a TV-loving homebody, I would be willing to wager that I saw at least one episode of Friends a day for the majority of my 23 years on this Earth. I grew up with a Friends loving mother who cried during the series finale and became obsessed with the show in my own right. In fact, I binged the shows entire ten season run in under a month when the show first came to Netflix and am always in the midst of a Friends rewatch at any given time. When one rewatches this classic show (especially in a short period of time) they are bound to notice things that flew straight over their heads in all their previous rewatches. No matter how many times one has seen the show, there is always something new to be discovered.
15 Childhood Pain Never Goes Away
Friends is a show about adults who are struggling to navigate through their twenties due to things that occurred to them during their childhoods and formative years. Ross was the golden child, so he cannot function when failure begins to define his adult life- which makes him blame literally everyone else for his problems as well as causing him to develop this sense of entitlement to success. Monica always has to be the best because she grew up being cast aside by her peers and narcissistic mother. She learns how to define herself on her own terms and stop waiting for her mother's approval. Rachel had an angry father who she grew to fear. Rachel pushes away male characters who try to help her but eventually learns to open up to help. We all know that Chandler has commitment issues due to his broken family but he is also terrified of doing anything which can be seen as traditionally effeminate in case he ends up like his father- who he blames for breaking up his family. Over time he is able to not only accept the feminine aspects of his personality but accept his father back into his life as well. Joey’s ego is the size of a supreme meatball sub due to his doting parents' affection which causes him to be unable to comprehend his own shortcomings which hinders his career as he never takes any criticism (which could improve his performances) to heart. And Phoebe is well… let’s just say it’s amazing that she turned out as optimistic as she did.
14 Revenge of the Arquettes
When Courteney Cox was married to David Arquette, she changed her last name to match her new partners name and wanted the world to know about their relationship. She wanted to make sure that by the time that the first episode of the six season (the first episode that was aired post-matrimony) aired that every single member of that crew new that her name had been changed so that the opening credits would reflect that relationship. According to some members of the crew, he was constantly reminding them about this change, making sure that no one would forget. In short, Courteney Cox may have Monica’d them. I don’t know why, but something about actors becoming (or naturally being) exactly like their characters always bring me so much joy. Knowing that the actors personality reflects elements of their character makes it feel as though that this actor was born to play the role that they were given. So, as a combination of pay back and a friendly joke, the cast and crew made sure that Arquette would be added to the end of Courteney’s name during the first episode of the six seasons opening credits. And they did this by adding Arquette to the end of literally every cast member and crews name that was featured during that title sequence.
13 Never Forget
When Friends carried on, business as usual, after the tragic events that occurred in New York on September 11th, 2001, many people were upset with both the cast and the crew. Since the New York set show usually steered away from gritty and darker subjects (unless when referring to Phoebe and her colourful backstory and even then the references were done in a comedic tone or as a punchline,) any mention of the event would have felt at odds with the general tone of the show.
However, it did feel weird that the show never mentioned the city shaking event at all.
It is important to note that there was an episode in the shows eighth season which was filmed pre-9/11 which contained Chandler making an ill timed bomb joke which was cut from the final episode due to the tragedy. But it would be factually incorrect to say that the show did not attempt to make their support for their city known. The show tried to avoid being too politically direct (and at the time, most shows attempted to stay politically neutral in order to prevent themselves from alienating their audiences) but that did not keep the cast and crew silent. Following the tragic event, the cast and crew showed their support for the firefighters that risked their lives protecting American civilians by writing FDNY on the Magna board which hangs on Joey’s apartment door (which can be seen behind Rachel in the above photo) as well as showing Joey in an FDNY shirt.
12 They Changed The Locks
We all know that famous moment in that final Thanksgiving episode where the gang sticks their heads through that locked door, forming a cartoon like stack of heads, after being locked out. Rachel is able to get the door open thanks to an old spare key she finds amongst her possessions. The gang is able to open the door thanks to that discovery however even though the deadbolt was unlocked, the chain was firmly in place; preventing them from being able to open the door completely. However, Rachel should not have even been able to open that door using that old key at all. This is due to the fact that their apartment door was swapped out in an earlier season when Monica was out of town. Phoebe and Joey accidentally lock the door to the apartment and calls the superintendent claiming that there was a gas leak. The door is torn down and replaced with a new door with, presumably, new locks. Though it is important to note that “binging” shows did not really exist until the popularity of both season box sets and, later, streaming platforms began to rise. So older shows often contain several continuity issues due to the fact that few people could remember or notice inconsistencies between small details of an episode which they haven’t seen in years.
11 Problematic Guest Stars
It is always difficult to balance a healthy dose of pop culture references as well as the appearance of well-known guest stars on a show. Never mentioning any aspect of pop culture makes the show seem to exist in this weird bubble without films, celebrities, or anything of the like. Which truly affects the realism of the show and its ability to reflect our own lives. Since Friends is a show with its roots grounded firmly in the soil of realism, the show was absolutely filled to the brim with pop culture references that mirrored the way which people spoke in their everyday lives. However, that put them into a pickle in later seasons when guest stars came out of the woodwork to appear in the show.
Ross reserves a restaurant under the name “Winona Ryder” but Ryder also appears on the show as Rachel’s college sorority sister
with whom she had exchanged an intimate moment. The main three boys show a deep love for Die Hard and reference, rewatch, and gush over the movie continually throughout the series yet none of them even react when Bruce Willis guest stars on the show. I mean, even a passing comment on the similarity between their appearances would have been enough. And finally, Chandler has the infamous and animated Jessica Rabbit on his celebrity hall-pass list but the actress who voiced the red-haired star also played Chandler's own father. Talk about daddy issues.
10 Architectural Changes
Sometimes the devil is in the details of the background. On most sitcoms, the background of the sets are subdued in order to draw your focus towards the characters. Though it is important to note that some shows intently include movement in the background in order to play on the fact that most people will not notice it during a casual viewing experience. However, this lack of regard for everything inanimate allows the crew to make several changes to the set without alarming audiences. One of the biggest examples of subtle changes that went, mostly unnoticed was the fact that Ugly Naked Guy's’ apartment went through several changes throughout the course of the series. In some episodes, the apartment building which housed him and his belongings can be seen through Monica’s window in all of its brick glory. But in some episodes, the apartment has been torn down and only scaffolding remains. But, in later episodes, the apartment building reappears and is, once again, occupied by Ugly Naked Guy, Maybe he has a brilliant contract that assured him the same apartment in the rebuilt building. Or maybe it was simply an error that they hoped nobody would ever notice. Well, I noticed. Yeah, I did.
9 Constantly Changing Backstories
As previously mentioned, the invention of binging culture created pressure for shows to make sure that there is not a drop of continuity issues in any episodes of the show. However, older shows, which existed before people were in the habit of marathoning television shows in short spans of time, have the bad habit of containing plethoras of continuity issues as plots and characters were edited and changed later on in the series.
Personally, traits were added and removed, backstories were invented or completely rewritten, and relationships were forged and broken before the show even began.
A good example of this is the fact that when Rachel ran into the gang in the pilot after leaving Barry at the altar. When Rachel reconnects with her former best friend, Monica, she is introduced to the gang and Monica introduces Rachel to Chandler as if they had never met. Which is quickly proven as untrue as it is later revealed that they met each other several times before while they were all navigating their late teens/early twenties. I mean, Rachel was forgetful and self involved so it is possible that she simply forgot, in that frazzled post-wedding moment, that she had ever met Chandler before. But it is more likely that the crew simply forgot that these characters haven’t met or hoped that the audience wouldn’t notice.
8 The Curious Case of the Moving Toilets
This might be one of those things that only people as neurotic as me have noticed. Maybe I am far too pedantic but I like to think of myself as detail oriented. And in the spirit of pedantic nerd behaviour, I would like to draw the attention of the internet to the toilets that reside in both the boys and the girls’ apartments in the Friends series. Because, like the stairs of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the toilets positions has been known to change. When Monica and Chandler are sneaking around and Joey catches them in the middle of they night, they cover up their relationship by claiming that it is the morning time. Joey heads to the bathroom to prepare for the day but passes out on the toilet which is clearly visible from the apartments open bathroom door. However, when ever we are shown the full inside of their bathroom, the toilet is clearly hidden behind their door. The toilet in Monica’s apartment is known to move around from time to time as well. When Joey falls into a repairman phase and convinces Monica to retile her bathroom, the toilet is against the far wall which sits opposite to the door. However, whenever the toilet is show again, it is placed beside the sink which is on the wall adjacent to the door.
7 A Love That Could Never Be
There is no question. Monica and Chandler are one of the most beloved and well known fictional couples of all time. Her neurotic and hypercompetitive behaviour completely balances out his lay about, non committal, lack of motivation. They help each other overcome their childhoods and figure out the root of their deepest problems. Monica reunites Chandler with his father and helps him open up his heart to the person who he believes broke apart his family. She helps him move on and repair that broken relationship. And, in turn, he helps her learn how to slow down and accept life for how it is rather than how she thinks that it should be- or expected it to be. But what if I were to tell you that that relationship might have never existed had it had not been for a last-minute change of heart from the writers of Friends?
It turns out that the core relationship was originally supposed to be Monica and Joey.
That’s right. Monica and Joey. Personally, I believe that these two would have eaten each other alive and would not have lasted a week but the crew had a different idea. If you rewatch earlier episodes of the show, there seems to be a strong bond and connection between the two characters-which was supposed to lay the foundation for something more.The writers believed these two characters should be together considering how fond of intimacy they both were. But as their characters evolved, the relationship no longer made sense. Some ships are not meant to leave the harbour.
6 A Product of It's Time
Now, it’s important to disclaimer this by saying that it is unfair to hold older shows up to modern standards. We need to be critical of the media we consume but, at the same time, we need to avoid projecting modern standards onto these old forms of media. We also need to note that there are several episodes and plot lines that exist within the ten series run of Friends that were ahead of their time. For example, the show featured a lesbian relationship that was not done as a punchline nor as a way to woo audiences. They were simply characters, like everyone else. They even showed a same-sex marriage on screen years before they were legalized in America. They also included a transgender character (Chandler’s father) though she did, unfortunately become the butt of several jokes. But, when she finally appeared on screen, she was played by a beautiful woman and treated like a person in a way that truly validated people with similar experiences. Places where the show is clearly a product of its time include the fact that Chandler is called “gay” whenever he does anything traditionally “feminine” as well as the ways in which Monica was treated during her flashbacks. Her weight is seen as a punchline and in all honesty, she wasn’t really that big.
5 Fountain of Age-Related Inconsistencies
In the normal world, a person typically has a birthday once a year which marks the transition from one age to the next. For me, that day is today (June 11th) but sometimes, people on television do not age in the way that we commoners do. Many characters can find that their age jumps around whenever it is relevant to the plot and can even go several seasons without ever even having a birthday.
The '90s sitcom Friends is simply a hodgepodge of age related anomalies and inconsistencies.
For example, in the episode where the gang all relive their memories associated with their thirtieth birthday, the audience is shown a flashback which depicts Joey on his thirtieth birthday while they are attending Rachel’s thirtieth birthday. However, it had already been established that Joey is the youngest member of the gang. In the episode where Monica accidentally woos a high schooler, she reveals that she is 26 and, since her and Rachel were in the same grade, one can only assume that she was 26 as well. But in the first season Joey is revealed to only be 25. But Rachel’s birthday does tend to jump around so it is possible that they were close enough to have switched at some point. Rachel once told Gunther that her birthday was in May but then later told a cop that she was an Aquarius. Also, I should note that there were three seasons where Ross was stated to be twenty nine. But nobody likes Ross so maybe it’s best if we all just forget about him.
4 A Classic Title Drop
Ah, there is nothing that I love more than a good title drop. There’s just something special about that moment where the characters spout that title that makes me thirst for it. It gives me life. It sustains me. And I think that all of the people of the world would be glad to know that in nearly every single episode of the ten year run of the show Friends the word “friends” appears at least once. And it’s done so smoothly that few people have even noticed. Nothing ruins a good title drop that its appearance being unironically awkward and forced. I think that the fact that the word “friends” is a word that can be easily added to most conversations without it being weird made it much easier for the writers to continually just slip it on in there. I mean, imagine if they attempted to slip the title “Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events” into every single episode of the show. But, knowing that show, they would probably find a way to make it a witty and ironically awkward running gag. But in a show focused on smooth realism and everyday life/situations, like Friends, that kind of tongue in cheek reference would not work. It just would not fit the tone of the show and it would become irritating rather than the cute little easter egg that it is.
3 Insincere Grief and Mourning
On your first run through of the show Friends, Phoebe seems like a tragic but optimistic character who has been through heck and back and is just trying to make it in the big city. She’s quirky, sweet, and sees the world through this unique and unparalleled perspective. However, when you rewatch the show you will see that that was not the case at all. While it is true that Phoebe does bring up what happened to her mother frequently, it is important to note that the majority of times in which her mother’s tragic end is being brought up,
it is being done to Phoebe's advantage.
When Phoebe brings her mother up, it is rarely because of her emotional attachment to the woman who raised her and the lessons that she embedded in her daughters. If Phoebe is bringing up her mother, it is usually because she is manipulating the people around her or trying to get her way. Yes, Phoebe plays the victim “woe was me and my sad childhood” card so often that it seems like it may be the only card in her deck. And, as the show wears on, her friends figure out her little game and start calling her out for it. While yes it’s true that traumatic experiences can affect us for years afterwards, Phoebe makes it clear by the later seasons of the show that the incident no longer affects her and that she simply brings it up in order to get her way or the upper hand in a situation.
2 Moving On Up
In some of the first few episodes of the 90’s hit sitcom Friends, the gang shares apartments that bear the numbers ‘4’ and ‘5.’ However, that struck audiences as a bit odd considering the fact that Monica (and consequently Chandler and Joey) clearly live on a higher story of their apartment. This is due to the fact that Monica has a balcony outside her apartment that is clearly far above street level. As well as the fact that the apartment building which lies across the street (which can be seen from the aforementioned balcony) from the gangs building is clearly shown to have several floors below Monica’s eye level. These elements would lead people to believe that the gang clearly had to be on the apartment buildings third or fifth floor which made their low apartment numbers a tad confusing. This was fixed by changing the numbers on the door to the much more believable digits of ‘19’ and ‘20.’ This change went completely unmentioned or noted in the show. Another change that took place in Monica’s apartment that went without notice was the fact that those weird wooden support beams that stood in her kitchen in the first season of the show suddenly disappeared. Now, I understand why this had to be done. I mean one of the beams literally blocked off part of the set so acting around that thing had to be a total nightmare.
1 Things Never Meant to Be Seen
Over the years, television sets got bigger and that meant that things needed to change. And when many cable and even network shows made the switch from the small screen to popular streaming services, like Netflix, they found that they needed to switch things up in order to prevent images and characters from being distorted on these new platforms. And that meant that the aspect ratio needed to be altered in order to allow the shows to be properly displayed. Shows used to be filmed with 4:3 aspect ratio but the switch to a modern 16:9 aspect ratio unveiled some things that should have been kept hidden. Since these older shows tended to work with a smaller aspect ratio, switching those shows to a large one caused several elements of the production process and sets to be visible to all audiences.
On several episodes of Friends boom mikes, lighting equipment, stand ins, and even the visible ends of the set walls could suddenly be seen with ease.
Before the aspect ratio changed, these TV secrets would have been hidden from the final product that was delivered to international audiences but showcasing these older shows in ways that they were never meant to be seen caused things that were supposed to be hidden to finally see the light of day.