In an ongoing series of fumbles with regard to the diversity (and other current criticisms) of Friends, David Schwimmer has now apologized to Living Single's Erika Alexander. On Twitter, the actor responded to her claim that he'd overlooked the fellow '90s sitcom, which featured a predominantly black cast, when discussing his own series' place in history.
To refresh, Schwimmer was recently interviewed by The Guardian about the millennial reaction to how poorly Friends has aged in certain cultural respects and replied, "I don't care. The truth is also that [the] show was groundbreaking in its time for the way in which it handled so casually sex, protected sex, gay marriage and relationships."
Schwimmer went on to say that the series was being taken out of context and urged people to watch it from the viewpoint of what the show was trying to do at the time. He also pointed out that he personally had pushed for Ross to date women of color on the series and said, "Maybe there should be an all-black Friends or an all-Asian Friends."
This statement caught the attention of Alexander, one of the stars of Living Single, who wrote on Twitter, "Hey @DavidSchwimmer @FriendsTV, r u seriously telling me you've never heard of #LivingSingle? We invented the template. Yr welcome, bro." Living Single, an iconic series in which six black 20-somethings who live in the same brownstone in Brooklyn navigate love and life, debuted a year before Friends in 1993.
Schwimmer later replied with a statement which read, "Hi Erika. As you know, I was asked recently in an interview for The Guardian how I felt (for the thousandth time) about a reboot of Friends immediately following a conversation about diversity on the show, and so offered up other possibilities for a reimagining of the show today. I didn't mean to imply Living Single hadn't existed or indeed hadn't come before Friends, which I knew it had. Please remember in an interview quotes are often pieced together and taken out of context, and then these quotes are repurposed in other articles by other people who are trying to be provocative."
His statement continued, "I was a fan of Living Single, and was not implying Friends was the first of its kind. To my knowledge, Friends (which came out a year later) was inspired by [series creators] Marta [Kaufmann] & David [Crane]'s own lives and circle of friends living in NY in their twenties. If it was based on Living Single you'd have to ask them. It's entirely possible that Warner Brothers and NBC, encouraged by the success of Living Single, gave the Friends pilot a green light. I honestly don't know, but seems likely! If that's the case, we are all indebted to Living Single for paving the way. In any event, if my quote was taken out of context, it's hardly in my control. I assure you I meant no disrespect. David."
Alexander later replied with thanks for his "very thoughtful" response and suggested there was more to come from her on the subject. The dust up seems settled for now, but if Maxine Shaw is any indication, Alexander's notes to come about why Living Single doesn't get the same recognition as Friends will be even more thoughtful than Schwimmer's apology.
Friends will be available to stream on HBO Max later this year. Living Single is currently available to stream on Hulu.
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