The One Friends Storyline Matthew Perry Wouldn't Agree to
Many ideas from the writers' room never made it to air.
It’s hard to watch a show that debuted 25 years ago today and not find some of its storylines and attitudes out-of-date, or, for lack of a better word, cringe-y. With Friends, modern audiences have bristled at the casual gay jokes and the treatment of Chandler’s transgender father (who was played by a woman and served as a punchline throughout the series).
But as tone deaf as some of Friends’s arcs feel in the present day, that’s nothing compared to the stories that didn’t make their way to air.
According to Saul Austerlitz’s new book Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, the writers were rebuffed by the show’s co-creators when they pitched a storyline in which Phoebe decided she loved Chinese food so much she would try to marry it. But sometimes it was the actors who objected to certain ideas, as was the case with an episode poised to have Chandler (Matthew Perry) sneaking into a gay bar because he loved the chef’s tuna melts. “Perry said no, and the story was shelved,” Austerlitz writes.
One of the most pivotal examples of a fatefully nixed storyline came in the fall of 2001, following the attacks on the morning of September 11. “The One Where Rachel Tells …,” which was slated to air on Oct. 11, saw Chandler being apprehended by airport security after making a joke about a sign reading, “Federal Law Prohibits Any Joking Regarding Aircraft Highjacking or Bombing.” After 9/11, the scene was cut and replaced with a light-hearted storyline following Monica and Chandler as they compete with another set of newlyweds for honeymoon upgrades. The original scenes were eventually released and soon went viral online.
The showrunners ultimately decided that Friends "was not the show to address the destruction of the World Trade Center." The series made no explicit mention of 9/11, referencing it only through an FDNY T-shirt Joey wore in honor of the late Captain Billy Burke in early 2002.