Friends came to a close 15 years ago, after 10 seasons and 236 episodes of laughter with the Central Perk gang.
But it wasn’t always a sure thing that the sitcom would last a decade, with series co-creator David Crane revealing that he and his fellow writers believed the show was ending twice before.
“There were three seasons where we thought it was going to be the last season,” Crane told RadioTimes.com. “When we were doing the eighth season, we were told, ‘This is the end.’ And then they negotiated another season, so we’re in for nine.
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“We were told at a certain point on nine that ‘This is absolutely the last season’. And then a week later, they came back and went, ‘Well…’
“And so we got to the 10th season and said, ‘Let’s be really clear: we can’t keep not knowing where we’re going.’ So we knew, definitively, it was the last one.”
Despite how badly fans might’ve wished for it, there was never any chance of an 11th season, with the 10th season even running to a shorter-than-usual 18 episodes to accommodate the cast’s busy schedules.
“Because of schedules and whatever, that 10th season is a short season,” Crane confirmed.
Friends’ 2004 finale, ‘The Last One’, saw Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) reunite and new parents Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) move out of their New York City apartment.
Crane says that while he and the writing team “considered [different] options” for how Friends might end, they very quickly came to the conclusion that Ross and Rachel had to end up together.
“We knew the questions we had to answer,” he said. “We knew that we wanted it to be satisfying. I think that there had been a number of other shows that had opted for ambivalent endings, daringly unsatisfying – but Friends really demanded a sense of completion and satisfaction.
“Obviously, the big question was: do Ross and Rachel get together? And very quickly, the answer was: yeah, they have to. We have tortured people for 10 years. We owe them a happy ending.
“And so the job was: how do you do it so that it’s truthful and organic and surprising, and so that you didn’t know that was where we were heading, and you didn’t see it coming, or how it was going to happen. Yeah, the finale was challenging. I mean, the whole show was challenging, but especially getting that episode right.”
And if Friends had ended after season eight, or nine? Crane thinks the beats of the final episodes would still have played out more-or-less the same.
“I think the ending would have been the same. Obviously, you know, the journey of each of those seasons [was different]… but I think we would have landed in the same place.”