On this day in 1994, the television sitcom Friends, about six young adults living in New York City, debuts on NBC. The show, which featured a group of relatively unknown actors, went on to become a huge hit and air for 10 seasons. It also propelled the cast–Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer–to varying degrees of stardom and success in Hollywood.
Of the six main Friends cast members, Jennifer Aniston emerged as arguably the most famous. Aniston played the fashion-loving Rachel Green, who, when the show began, worked as a waitress at Central Perk, a coffee shop that served as a gathering spot for the friends. The actress’s blonde, layered hairstyle during the first season became known as “The Rachel” and was copied by women around the globe. Off-screen, Aniston, whose film credits include The Good Girl (2002), Bruce Almighty (2003), Rumor Has It (2005) and The Break-Up (2006), became a tabloid-media fixture for her relationship with the actor Brad Pitt. The couple married in a lavish ceremony in Malibu, California, in 2000 and announced their separation in early 2005 amid soon-to-be-confirmed rumors of Pitt’s involvement with the actress Angelina Jolie.
Courteney Cox, the best known of the cast members when Friends debuted, played Monica Geller, a neurotic, hyper-organized chef. The actress, who first gained notice when she appeared in the 1984 Bruce Springsteen video “Dancing in the Dark,” acted in the popular sitcom Family Ties and co-starred opposite Jim Carrey in 1994’s hit comedy Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994). She was later featured in the successful Scream movies and the TV series Dirt. Since 1999, she has been married to the actor David Arquette and goes by the professional name Courtney Cox Arquette. The third female Friends cast member, Lisa Kudrow, portrayed the wacky masseuse-musician Phoebe Buffay. Kudrow’s film credits include Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997), The Opposite of Sex (1998), Analyze This (1999) and its sequel Analyze That (2002) and P.S. I Love You (2007). In 2005, she headlined the well-reviewed but short-lived HBO comedy series The Comeback.
The male Friends included Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, a handsome but dim-witted struggling actor. From 2004 to 2006, LeBlanc starred in the spin-off TV series Joey.
David Schwimmer played Ross Geller, a sensitive paleontologist and Monica’s older brother. One of the main storylines on Friends was Ross’s on-again, off-again relationship with Aniston’s Rachel. Schwimmer’s other acting credits include the 2001 TV mini-series Band of Brothers. Rounding out the Friends cast was Matthew Perry, who played the wisecracking businessman Chandler Bing. Perry’s film credits include Fools Rush In (1997), The Whole Nine Yards (2000) and The Whole Ten Yards (2004); more recently, he co-starred on the short-lived NBC comedy-drama series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
On May 6, 2004, more than 50 million viewers reportedly tuned in to the final episode of Friends, making it one of the most-watched TV finales in history.