Early audiences weren't sold on the sitcom and the network had a hunch it had something to do with Monica. 

By Isabel Jones
Nov 01, 2019 @ 1:00 pm
NBC/Getty

Though it’s difficult to imagine a time before Friends became a generation-defining mega-hit it is today (and has been for about 25 years), the truth is that audiences weren’t initially won over by the NBC sitcom.

When the pilot was first screened before an audience of around 100 (it was titled Six of One at the time), viewers found many fundamental problems with the show. According to Saul Austerlitz’s book Generation Friends, “an internal memo described the show as ‘not very entertaining, clever, or original,’ with particular concerns about Ross, who ‘generated little sympathy.’”

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Overall, the consensus was “meh.” NBC’s West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer worried that negative early reviews were in part due to Monica’s libido. In the pilot, she sleeps with a man on the first date, which Ohlmeyer was concerned would rub audiences the wrong way. Never mind the fact that Joey’s promiscuity is one of his defining characteristics … Naturally, it was Monica’s sexual liberation that was instead flagged as an issue.

Ohlmeyer went as far as to distribute a questionnaire to viewers concerning extramarital sex. “[Co-creator] Marta Kauffman was breathing fire out of her nose at Ohlmeyer’s presumption and at the obnxiousness of his questionnaire, which basically asked, she believed, if Monica was A) a whore, B) a slut, or C) easy,” Austerlitz writes.

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Despite Ohlmeyer’s concern, Monica’s storyline was kept. This wasn’t the first time Courteney Cox would act as a TV pioneer. In a 1985 Tampax ad she became the first person to say the word “period” in a national commercial.

A true trailblazer.

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