On September 22, 1994, NBC debuted one of their new Thursday night sitcoms entitled “Friends” about six friends — portrayed by Courteney Cox (Monica), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry (Chandler) and David Schwimmer (Ross) — living in New York City. It aired at 8:30 p.m. ET, sandwiched in between “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld.”
The show’s original title was “Insomnia Cafe,” which was then retitled “Friends Like Us” before it finalized as “Friends” upon its launch. It later took over the post-“Seinfeld” 9:30 p.m. slot in February 1995 once Dabney Coleman’s “Madman of the People” (NBC’s other Thursday sitcom introduced in the fall of ’94) faltered. As we look back, here were some of the notable promotional advertisements for the Thursday night sitcom.
Parodying the famous Calvin Klein commercials of that time, the “Friends” cast appeared in their underwear.
In relation to NBC’s other Thursday night “friends” we’ve already met, an introduction to wannabe actor Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc). Note the obstructing wooden column near the kitchen of Monica Geller’s apartment. Producers wisely removed it midway during its first season.
In addition to the season one finale in May 1995, the sixth season ender of “Seinfeld” featuring guest star Bette Midler was also promoted.
For the season one finale in May 1995, “it’s the ‘Friends’ you’ll be talking about all summer!”
In the many years before mobile phones and devices were heavily in the mainstream, David Schwimmer appeared in this 1995 ad for AT&T, promoting its calling circles plan… for landline phones, of course!
After proving its ratings muscle throughout its inaugural 1994-95 season, NBC moved “Friends” to Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET (while shipping off “Mad About You” to Sundays at 8 p.m.) and used this “Ask Matthew Perry” promo to note the move.
Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) divulges a secret Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) did not want to be revealed in this clip for the sitcome of “Must-See Thursdays.”
Chandler and Joey lose track of Ross’ baby son and David Schwimmer guest stars on his real-life friend Jonathan Silverman’s sitcom, “The Single Guy” in this November 2, 1995 “Must-See TV” promo.
Billy Crystal and Robin Williams sit on the Central Perk couch to drink coffee in 1997.
Not a good idea for Ross to begin the year of 1999 to wear leather pants!
Networks still in the business of touting February sweeps in the year of 2000, with the alternative-reality episode of “Friends” as one of the highlighted TV stunts.
The extended promo for the “Friends” series finale in 2004.
My five favorite “Friends” episodes:
5. “The One After the Super Bowl” (Season 2, Episode 12 and 13)
Still, the viewer record holder for post-Super Bowl airings, this 1996 episode was the series’ all-time most-watched hour and its guest stars were Julia Roberts, Jean Claude Van Damme, Brooke Shields (whose appearance led to starring in her own NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan”) and the return of Ross Gellar’s monkey Marcel. Upon multiple repeated viewings as a youth, I could not get enough of Monica and Rachel’s apartment battles over the affection of Van Damme as well as Julia Roberts successfully enacting her revenge upon Matthew Perry’s Chandler character.
4. “The One with the Football” (Season 3, Episode 9)
The series had terrific Thanksgiving episodes, from Season 4’s edition that forced Chandler to stay in a box as punishment for kissing Joey’s girlfriend to Season 8 with guest star (and then-hubby to Aniston) Brad Pitt (besting CBS hit “Survivor” head-to-head in the ratings on that 2001 Thanksgiving night). My favorite was where they all played football with “The Gellar Cup” as a grand prize.
3. “The One with the Prom Video” (Season 2, Episode 14)
Throughout the first season, Ross loved Rachel from afar, unbeknownst to Rachel. Throughout the first half of the second season, Rachel loved Ross from afar, unbeknownst to Ross. When it seemed those two could never join in on a romance, it was an old videotape of the night Monica and Rachel went to their high school prom that finally made Ross-and-Rachel official.
3. “The One with the Embryos” (Season 4, Episode 12)
Perhaps it’s the game show fanatic within me that very much cherished this episode that involved an impromptu trivia contest between Chandler and Joey versus Monica and Rachel. Ross, of course, had to put himself in the mix as trivia host! Things get even more humorous when the prize stakes for the game rise further as its aftermath provided one of the series’ unforgettable moments.
1. “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (Season 5, Episode 14)
The plot line of Monica and Chandler’s romance began in the fourth season finale when Ross was planning to get married to Emily in London in May 1998. Their constant efforts to keep their coupling secret lasted throughout the first half of the fifth season, and culminated in the hilarious reveal to all their other friends in February 1999. The writing for “Friends” was at the top of their game in this classic episode and it solidified the series’ status as TV’s top comedy at the turn of the century.
“Friends” also had a couple of great cliffhangers:
Ross: “I take thee, Rachel…” (Season 4)
Monica and Chandler considered eloping at a Las Vegas chapel but another friendly couple beat them to the punch! (Season 5)