Quite the process! Friends wouldn’t be Friends without that iconic opening scene in front of the fountain. However, it wasn’t originally there at all.
“We tried a few different things with the title sequence,” producer Kevin S. Bright explained in a deleted clip from Friends: The Reunion, released by HBO Max on Thursday, May 27. “The first one was done at the pilot. We basically sat them at the coffee shop and shot a bunch of footage of them playing cards, but then it was said, ‘Meh, there’s not gonna be a title sequence. NBC doesn’t want one, don’t waste your time.'”
However, after scrapping it and submitting the pilot, the network pushed back. “We get back a note that the beginning of the show is too slow for them,” cocreator David Crane explained. “They want us to cut some of the dialogue from the beginning and we’re like, ‘No, no, no. This has always been in. This is how the show starts.’ We wanted that sort of slow, talking feeling. They’re like, ‘You don’t cut some of the dialogue and pace it up, you’re not on the air.'”
After some finagling, Bright created a title sequence that included one shot of the card game and sprinkled in the characters in season 1. They didn’t cut any of the dialogue, but the opening credits sped up the beginning for NBC. After they got the OK, they planned something new.
“We needed someplace where we didn’t have to travel too far, where we could just shoot it after a run-through. It couldn’t have a lot of production value,” Crane explained. The producers were advised to walk around the Warner Bros. lot to find a location. They all agreed that the fountain could pass as a New York City spot.
“We had not recorded the theme song yet. We played back something for them to dance to, it was something funky, I remember that,” Bright recalled. “The interesting thing is that it looks like in the title sequence that Jennifer [Aniston] is lipsyncing to ‘I’ll Be There for You.’ She’s lipsyncing to some other song we will never remember now.”
Cocreator Marta Kauffman reflected on the “very cold night” that the group filmed the opening, dancing around and acting out a few pre-planned bits.
“The fountain was cold, and they were so game and so great about throwing themselves in there,” she said, with Bright adding that they shot for “about four hours until 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Ultimately, the opening sequence became a huge part of the show. While clips from the actual sitcom were always included in the sequence, all 10 seasons also included the cast playing in the fountain, a fond memory shot in 1994.
Friends: The Reunion is now streaming on HBO Max.