Gasp: “Friends” almost never existed

Here at HelloGiggles, we eat, sleep and breathe Friends. We drop Friends references into casual conversations, react to news with Friends GIFs and have re-watched the show more than twice since it came to Netflix. Simply put, we can’t imagine a life without Friends. So when we read that the show’s pilot tested badly at first, we were totally shocked.

“We didn’t test very well,” the show’s co-creator David Crane told The Huffington Post. He said that executives didn’t think audiences would care for a show about 20-somethings that—gasp!—talked about sex on the air. The network initially wanted to add a character who was from “an older generation,” which maybe explains where Richard came from.

“Older adults 35+ were more critical [than younger adults 18-34], and felt this group did not really care about each other the way real friends would,” reads a document that captured the test audience’s reactions. “They found the characters smug, superficial, and self-absorbed. These older viewers also found it hard to relate to this group of friends, and felt they were not really like people they would want to know.”

10 seasons and 236 episodes later, those execs are eating their words. But still, it did happen: The Friends pilot received a poor rating back in 1994. A lot of it had to do with the show’s characters. Monica was the favorite—men were attracted to her, and women enjoyed her sense of humor. The other five friends, not so much.

“Young adults (18-34) thought the show was funny, and men generally responded better to the humor than women,” the document continues. “But most viewers felt the show as not very entertaining, original or clever.”

Is the pilot the best episode of Friends? No. Do we love it just the same? Yes. And it’s probably because we watch the show with rose-colored glasses. We love the pilot because we love every episode of the show; it’s nearly impossible to watch it objectively. We’re just glad that NBC took a chance on something that tested just so-so, because we can’t imagine a world without Friends. The risk was well worth the reward!

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