Friends, the iconic NBC sitcom set to celebrate its 25th anniversary next month, originally had an older male character in its cast—and it wasn’t Ugly Naked Guy.
In his timely new book, Generation Friends, pop culture historian Saul Austerlitz revealed that NBC offered Friends creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane the suggestion of “an older secondary character” to the show, which was being pitched as Friends Like Us at the time, Entertainment Weekly reports.
The note called for an older, more mature character to balance out the young Friends cast, which included 20-somethings Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow. The network was reportedly worried that older viewers wouldn’t tune into a show about young adults in their 20s.
Crane and Kauffman reluctantly agreed to the change and added a character named “Pat the Cop,” who was going to be an older police officer that was loosely based on a real-life law enforcement agent who used to hang out in the movie theater where Dream On writers Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss once worked. The writers worked the new character into the pilot script and even cast the role, according to Uproxx.
“The writers made a good-faith attempt, even casting the role, but hated the resulting script so much that they pleaded with NBC to drop the idea,” Austerlitz wrote in Generation Friends. “If only NBC would kill Pat the Cop, they promised, they would give their six protagonists parents in notable supporting roles, and find older guest stars to attract a more mature audience.”
With Pat the Cop out, Friends did routinely feature older characters such as neighbor Mr. Heckles (Larry Hankin), Ross and Monica’s parents, Jack and Judy Geller (Elliott Gould, Christina Pickles) and Monica’s older boyfriend, Dr. Richard Burke (played by Tom Selleck).
Still, not every older Friends guest star felt like part of the team while working with the six young actors. HuffPost notes that recurring guest star Kathleen Turner once recalled the “unwelcoming” atmosphere on the Friends set. Turner complained about the show’s “cliquey” core cast when she guest-starred as Chandler’s dad, Charles Bing/Helena Handbasket, for three episodes in 2001.
While older stars may not have jived with the young ensemble cast, over Friends’ 10-year run, several recurring characters were often thought of as the “seventh” friend, including Central Park worker Gunther (James Michael Taylor) and Phoebe’s future husband Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd).
Friends turns 25 on September 22.