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Generation Friends

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Generation Friends

An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Ross, Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Joey and Phoebe reappear in this affectionate history of TV’s Friends.

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take


NYU professor Saul Austerlitz details how a show about six friends hanging out in a Manhattan coffee shop turned into a cultural, and global, phenomenon. The 1990s TV series Friends reflected a simpler time in America. In the decades since it first aired, the show has found a new audience among millennials, on Netflix and on TV holiday marathons. With a generous sprinkling of trivia, Austerlitz reminds you how funny it was and how perfect the actors were for their roles. He’ll captivate every Friends fan or turn you into one.


TV showrunners Marta Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin Bright brought an idea about six Manhattan friends to Warner Brothers in 1994. Working with NBC, it found the right cast for “Friends.”

Writers Marta Kauffman and David Crane, who gained fame with their HBO series Dream On, were developing TV series pitches in Los Angeles. Their nostalgia for hanging out with their New York pals planted the seeds for Friends. Warren Littlefield, president of NBC entertainment, was looking for a show with broad appeal that would attract Generation X, 20-something viewers. He commissioned the pilot for Friends Like Us. Crane and Kauffman were in charge of the writers’ room, with Kauffman overseeing set work. They recruited their Dream On partner, Kevin Bright, to oversee postproduction.

The writers always had David Schwimmer in mind for Ross. He was the first person cast. Lisa Kudrow, a former scientist, won the role of the ditzy, folksinging bohemian, Phoebe. Kauffman and Crane wanted Courtney Cox for Rachel. She read for the part, but insisted on also reading for Monica, which she preferred. She nailed...

About the Author

Saul Austerlitz teaches writing and comedy history at New York University, and is the author of five books, including Sitcom.

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    A. 3 years ago
    Although, I don't remember watching a single full episode, my friends who have watched or are watching it talk among themselves about this show as if it was aired recently in the past couple of weeks. This show is indeed a phenomenal success.

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