Your favorite coffee shop-centered ‘90s sitcom is nearing its 25-year anniversary. I know, could we be more nostalgic? Among the blitz of Lego sets and apothecary tables feeding on the milestone anniversary is a new tome dedicated to the history of Friends (and the many behind-the-scenes anecdotes you’ve been waiting a quarter-century to hear).
Saul Austerlitz’s Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era compiles interviews with the show’s creators, writers, producers, and cast members in a book that both transports you to the worn-in cushions of Central Perk’s orange couch and allows you to look at the series in an entirely new light.
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Austerlitz devotes a good portion of the book to poring over what was initially viewed as the show’s core couple, Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Through 10 seasons the writers cleverly kept us on the edge of our seats in the on-and-off-again pair’s will-they-won’t-they dance. Every time Ross and Rachel neared anything resembling domestic bliss, it was crudely yanked away (see: “WE WERE ON A BREAK,” Joey’s accidental proposal, Rachel’s job in Paris, etc., etc.). But just as often as the rug was pulled, we were given moments of hope that reinforced Ross and Rachel’s obvious soulmate status.
One of such moments occurred in the show’s Season 4 finale, “The One with Ross’s Wedding.” The whole gang — excluding a very pregnant Phoebe (and an equally pregnant Lisa Kudrow) — heads to London for Ross’s wedding to Emily (Helen Baxdale), whom, ironically, he met through Rachel. Though Rachel initially agrees to stay behind with Phoebe, the newly-discovered depth of her feelings toward Ross motivates her to make the trip at the last minute.
Austerlitz writes that no one was sure how to end the wedding episode, but Schwimmer himself ended up providing the inspiration that would lead to one of the series’s most memorable (and cringe-inducing) scenes. While running lines one day, the actor had said, “Rachel, the taxi’s here,” instead of his given line: “Emily, the taxi’s here.” At that moment, “[producer] Greg Malins turned to [creator] David Crane and said, ‘That’s what happens.’”
And so, the moment that Ross vows to “take thee, Rachel” at his wedding to Emily was born.
Austerlitz points out how strangely relaxed Ross appears in this moment. “For someone who appears to live his life in a low hum of constant anxiety, flop sweat perpetually dripping off his forehead, Ross is notably calm in this moment of maximal erroneousness … It is as if his mouth has spoken a truth that the rest of him is not ready to acknowledge, and his is momentarily at peace.” After all, he is her lobster.