I love pop culture oral histories and when I saw this book was happening, I knew I had to have it. After binge-listening to the eight and a half hour audiobook over the past week, I have a burning desire to watch all 10 seasons of Friends from start to finish and then cry for awhile. This book is perfect for anyone who loves the series and loves learning the ins and outs of Hollywood, from pilot season to casting to contract negotiations and more.
Kelsey Miller loves Friends, and she finds comfort in it, which is the major overarching theme of this book and why it was written. Friends isn’t perfect. They didn’t have black friends. They made a lot of gay and fat jokes. Maybe it went on a couple seasons too long. But it’s sweet, warm comfort food for millions of people. Seriously, it’s like a HUGE deal. Way bigger than I realized, but I love it and I wasn’t even born yet when it started airing. But there’s a reason that the kids of people who had the Rachel haircut are watching this show in droves on Netflix.
Miller follows the show chronologically, which works really well. She talks about Kaufman and Crane’s background, how the met and the pilots they developed, and how Friends eventually came to be an idea. From there, they get into development and casting. One of the most alarming things I learned in this book was that the role of Ross was WRITTEN with David Schwimmer in mind. Have you ever heard anything more offensive? It seems like all of the actors were the perfect fit for their characters and also the only one for the job.For example, one guy was offered the role of Chandler before Matthew Perry, who was working on another show, but the guy turned it down. He later said he only got the offer because he “did a good Matthew Perry impression.” I also learned that Lisa Kudrow is like..super smart. I never thought she was “dumb” but she seems such a natural on stage that it’s hard to imagine she was almost a scientist.
Then, Miller goes through the seasons pretty quickly, talking about why certain storylines (like Phoebe’s pregnancy arrived), working with particular guest stars, contract negotiations, questions of diversity, the question of Chandler’s dad, et cetera. I wish she had offered a little more “behind the scenes” insight into how certain guest stars came about (Paul Rudd? What was it like having Brad Pitt on set? Reese Witherspoon?) or even more about Perry’s drug and alcohol addiction, which would seem to have been kind of a big deal but was only briefly touched on in this book. Miller does take a look at a #MeToo incident in the Friends writers room and how it might have played out in 2018 and how it affected those involved.
My favorite chapter was on how Friends and the team handled 9/11, how they were about to film the Halloween episode when the call came in that the towers had been struck. How would they handle it? Did the world even have a place for sitcoms anymore? How would they incorporate the terrorist attacks into this story about 20-somethings living in Manhattan without bringing everyone down? How could they pay tribute to those that had lost so much and those that had saved others that day? This chapter had me crying, I’m going to be honest .
Overall, I loved this book. I love Friends, I love oral histories and pop culture and now I patiently await this book for Gossip Girl. One day….one day.