25 years ago, Friends premiered the first episode of what would become an enduring pop culture phenomenon. Unfortunately, despite its continued relevance on the streaming scene, fans are probably never going to get that revival or reboot or second spin-off series, because again and again, the creatives have shot down the idea even when certain members of the cast seemed open to it.
One of the reasons we're no closer to returning to Central Perk is that the follow-up series we did get,Joey, was an unmitigated disaster. However, co-creator Marta Kauffman told Rolling Stone that a Friends revival just couldn't live up to expectations. (She even titled it "The One Where Everyone's Disappointed.") "All we'd be doing is putting those six actors back together, but the heart of the show would be gone," Kauffman explained.
Kauffman has long maintained that the hit show worked because it focused on a specific era in the lives of our Central Perk group -- the halcyon days when their friendships were the defining relationships in their lives. So, basically, once they began marrying off, moving away from the city, and having kids, their priorities would change quite a bit, and it'd make little to no sense for them to sit around trading apartments and comparing Thanksgiving horror stories and such.
That's fair enough and all... but in the spirit of Friends, which itself imagined what would happen if things were different (see also, "The One that Could've Been"), we thought about a few of the ways a follow-up series could revive the spirit of Friends by tugging on any number of threads in the story.
As we celebrate such a major anniversary of Friends' premiere, here's a look at just a few ideas about what another Friends spin-off might have looked like.
The One With All the Kids. The obvious first option for a Friends spin-off would be to pick up with their kids in real time. It's been 15 years since the series finale aired, so the triplets and Ben would be well into their 20s, while Emma, Jack, Erica, and the hypothetical "lots of babies" belonging to Phoebe and Mike would be in their teens. The children may not have been a focal point of the original series, but there were still some hints that their futures would be interesting. Has Emma been forever scarred by that penis cake and/or being put into a baby beauty pageant? Does Ben still play cruel pranks on people and carry on his long-standing feud with Sting's son? Will he tell his own kids the tale of the Holiday Armadillo? Did the twins find out they're adopted thanks to another episode of Chandler's foot-in-mouth disease? These are the need-to-knows, honestly.
The One With the Gang at Java Joe. Another possibility could be a period prequel about Monica's paternal grandma. Even though she was so lovingly referred to as "that old crow" by Judy, the remnants of her story that came up over the years painted an interesting picture of a life well lived. She, too, had a group of pals who liked to hang out at a coffee house once upon a time, and the purple apartment was hers long before Monica stole her identity to keep that rent control in place. And let's not forget how she kept a pair of handcuffs in the guest room closet. There are some stories to tell here, that's for sure.
The One With Phoebe's Backstory. During Friends' run we got a lot of fun flashbacks to when Monica and Rachel were awkward high school buddies and Chandler and Ross were having a terrible hair-off in college during the Way, No Way days. But we only got to hear about Phoebe's fascinating history in snippets. From her childhood living on a barge with a toy barrel to the moment she mugged Ross to her decision to marry a Canadian ice dancer, there are so many mysteries in her past that could easily fill out an entire series of scripts. Granted, it might be a bit bleak at times, but Phoebe's resilience and self-confidence would come through, too. Plus, we might finally get to meet the pimp who spit in her mouth and her cowboy friend "Albino Bob"!
The One With Gunther's Next Move. It took Gunther (James Michael Tyler) a long, long time to finally confess his feelings for Rachel, but you have to wonder if he ever moved on. In the end, Rachel and Ross decided to get back together and live out their days as lobsters -- with no more "on a break" business. Presumably, that means they continued to live in Ross' apartment right by Central Perk. If Gunther kept right on sunning his hair and slinging coffee per usual, that might make for some pretty awkward encounters for all of them, so perhaps he instead chose to get back into the soap opera game (remember, he was Bryce on All My Children once upon a time, and, as Joey proved, it's never too late for a comeback). Whatever happened, it'd be fun to find out what Gunther's been up to all these years later, even if it has nothing to do with the orange couch crowd.
The One With All the Missing Janice Content. Gunther may have been the closest thing to an official seventh friend on the show, but there's no doubt that Janice (Maggie Wheeler) was the best of the Friends community of significant others (sorry Mike!). Before you start saying "Oh my God," think about it. Janice was annoying sometimes, yes, but she was also a total sweetheart and had her own unique style and a mostly mature point of view about life. Over the years, we only got bits and pieces of her non-Chandler-related character development. It's still unclear how she ended up married to the Mattress King, whether she ever patched things up with "Little Miss New Boobs," and whether she and Sid ever actually bought that house in Brooklyn. Why not give the low-key MVP of the show some long-overdue attention?
The One With Roger's Therapy Sessions. The friends may have hated the guy, but he was pretty dead on with his assessment of all of them, no matter how colorful his descriptions of their boob-like coffee mugs may have been. How fun would it be to witness his dissection of other unsuspecting groups of his girlfriends' pals with "textbook" emotional hang-ups? Could he ever find someone to put up with him long term, or does HE need to spend some time on the couch?
The One With Steve's Spectacular Fall From Grace. When we first met Steve (Jon Lovitz), he wasn't doing so badly. He ran a restaurant, and although he got distracted by all the doobies, he obviously earned enough cheddar to afford regular massages from Phoebe. But then, years later, when he was set up on a blind date with Rachel, his life was in absolute shambles. No amount of Sugar Oh's or tartlets could possibly bring him out of that funk. How did it get so bad for Steve? Was it the drugs? And did he and his T-shirt business ever rebound?
The One With the Adventures of Chick Jr. and Duck Jr. The first Friends spin-off, Joey, might have been a wash, but the show did at least reveal that Chick Jr. and Duck Jr. never made it to California with him. What happened to our tiny new fowl friends? Did they get sent off to a "farm" like their namesakes, or did they land a sweet space near Marcel at the zoo? We SO won't rest 'til all the Friends pets are completely accounted for.
The One with Bamboozled. C'mon. That game show sounded fun, and you KNOW you'd watch it.
Friends is currently available for streaming on Netflix but will move to HBO Max in 2020.