Full(er) House, Will & Grace, Roseanne… How about Friends?
Friends was a show about that time in your life when your friends are your family… Once you start having family of your own it changes, and the show was over. [T]here’s no reason to continue doing it just because people miss the characters. Watch the old ones, there is no way we could win that. And there’s no way it would be satisfying and it’ll never happen. We’ll never do it.
-Marta Kauffman, Deadline 6/27/2016
That’s pretty definitive. But let’s talk about it anyway. While the cast negotiated $1 million an episode, there’s no way they’d all get that now. Jennifer Aniston’s star status has gone up enough to warrant more money as has David Schwimmer. Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox have their audience (some people liked Mr. Sunshine and Cougar Town). And Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow do their own thing.
Kauffman has spoken often, and frequently with disdain, that people need to get over Friends and get on with their families. In many ways, Marta Kauffman is my George Lucas, unaware of what she co-created and infinitely ephebed since.
But let’s use her own words against her.
Family? Well let’s see:
Ben and Emma are half-siblings all grown up. And their non-blood related cousins are Jack and Erica (look at that? 2 boys and 2 girls already). Ben has two mommies and the Bing’s are adopted. They are a family but even more diversified than Modern Family or The Fosters. Dare we introduce Phoebe’s brother’s triplets (now you’ve got 7 with Chandler rebooted as a girl)? But realistically they ought to be guest characters once a season or so.
So the story centers around the 4 of them, plus Joey. That’s right. Given the analysis of Joey and his desire to have kids, he actually acts as the father figure for the group, able to give advice and talk about sex without being weird. And instead of being “dumb” he just comes across as old-fashioned.
BEN: We chat online, but then when we’re together… I don’t know, it’s like we don’t know what to say.
JOEY: You kids and your internet, I have an production meeting, but let’s grab coffee later and I’ll explain what you do.
(Cut to coffee shop that’s dead silent as everyone is plugged into their computers, using their free wi-fi.)
BEN: Can we go somewhere more… private?
(Joey goes on tirade of what’s wrong with the people in the coffee shop. Does nobody chat anymore?)
This is what the Joey spin-off should have been and although I have no basis for this (not knowing Matt LeBlanc personally), I feel like he’d do it for less than a million an episode if only for that character.
Meanwhile episodes feature guest appearances from the cast we came to know and love for 10 years. Yes, that’s right, if Jennifer Aniston wants $8 million for an episode, they can afford one per season.
So how would the old cast function? This gets dangerously into fan fiction territory but why not?
- Ross and Rachel still haven’t gotten married
After 3 failed marriages, Ross is fearful of getting remarried. He and Rachel have been together for 10+ years now, but he refuses to propose and Rachel refuses to steal Monica’s thunder by proposing to her man. Their daughter Emma hates this.
- Monica works a food truck
Eventually, Monica’s staff does indeed revolt against her tyrannical ways. As a result, she starts a food truck where she’s her own boss and has an immaculate kitchen/truck to boot. The sign outside reads “This is the menu. No substitutions, no subtractions.” If you thought her packing list and reading “check” to herself was bad, she barks orders from the cashier to herself to move faster.
Of course, because she’s food truckin’ it, she’s frequently traveling across the US. Chandler thinks that was the best way for her to handle empty nest syndrome.
- Chandler does Monica’s digital marketing
Chandler runs a multi-million dollar digital marketing agency (with an emphasis on social media). He critiques his staff’s generated memes and jokes and, of course, frequently texts his kids. I mention the texting because you’ll get Jack saying to the group, “we should see what dad thinks, he’s usually got pretty good advice in these situations,” only to read the text later, “Could you kids be any smarter?”
And Chandler works long hours mainly because his most demanding client is none other than Monica. And Chandler believes that, without a staff to bark at, she saves all her commanding for him.
- Phoebe is a rock star
Yup, after years of performing niche indie music in coffee shops, the hipster movement has made Phoebe legendary. Plus, her whole backstory lends itself to being a rock goddess, coming from a place of tragedy. She regularly tours, which is also why she’s noticeably absent much of the time.
And the 4 core cast members are blank slates. Sure, you may have some episodes centered around the former cast — “The One Where Chandler Sexts Jack” which is on accident since Monica has been on the road awhile, but I can see Chandler trying to rationalize to Joey, “well, we’re not technically related by blood, so it’s not that bad.” And Joey reminding him he’s starting to sound like his father — but at it’s core the Friends reboot would be about dating and friends in the modern world. Instead of waiting by the phone for a date to call you back, you stalk them on Facebook. Instead of a blackout, the internet goes down. Instead of a jogger’s balls hanging out, you have Erica wondering if her date is a man, woman or transgender and navigating those feelings.
In terms of jobs, there’s much more flexibility with their hours. Jack could be a telecommuter for some tech company who dresses like a slob and has the routine of Joey but he’s actually making money. Ben could be a professor who only teaches night courses 4 days a week. Emma could be the poor vlogger trying to make a name for herself and continually getting recognized for the wrong reasons — a typo, a blemish, or leaving her live cam on for an awkward breakup. And Erica could work strange and bizarre contract jobs with sketchy startups while trying to fund a kickstarter project on the side.
And Marta Kauffman, if you’re out there, watch the Ted Talks with Elizabeth Gilbert (the lady who wrote Eat, Pray, Love). Friends was an ensemble, it’s not just you. This was lightning in a bottle and there’s more than enough material to capture the spirit of Friends without doing a direct sequel or movie.