According to one former television writer, working on “Friends” wasn’t all that friendly.
Patty Lin, whose credits include “Breaking Bad,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “Desperate Housewives,” opened up about her turbulent tenure on the juggernaut NBC sitcom in her upcoming memoir, “End Credits: How I Broke Up With Hollywood” (via Time).
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“The ‘Friends’ writing staff was cliquey, more so than at any other show I would work on. They reminded me of the preppy rich kids in my high school who shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch and drove brand-new convertibles,” Lin wrote of her former co-workers.
Lin, who is Asian, joined “Friends” in its seventh season and was the only person of color in the writers room at the time. She wrote that she often struggled with “imposter syndrome” and “wondered whether I was hired for ‘Friends’ because of the diversity program or because I was the right person for the job.”
Her experience only got harder during the table reads, in which the series stars — including Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc — gathered with the producers, writers and department heads to read the episode scripts. “The novelty of seeing Big Stars up close wore off fast,” Lin wrote.
She added, “The actors seemed unhappy to be chained to a tired old show when they could be branching out, and I felt like they were constantly wondering how every given script would specifically serve them. They all knew how to get a laugh, but if they didn’t like a joke, they seemed to deliberately tank it, knowing we’d rewrite it. Dozens of good jokes would get thrown out just because one of them had mumbled the line through a mouthful of bacon.”
After the table reads, the actors would “vociferously” express their opinions about the scripts, according to Lin. “They rarely had anything positive to say, and when they brought up problems, they didn’t suggest feasible solutions,” she added. “Seeing themselves as guardians of their characters, they often argued that they would never do or say such-and-such. That was occasionally helpful, but overall, these sessions had a dire, aggressive quality that lacked all the levity you’d expect from the making of a sitcom.”
After the season wrapped, Lin was not asked to return to the writers room for Season 8.
“I was mortified and indignant,” she wrote. “I was also a little bit relieved. No more all-night rewrites, no more anxious joke pitching, no more feeling like a nerd at the popular kids’ table.”
So no one told her life was going to be this way? Well, except for her ex-boss Judd Apatow.
Lin recalled the “Freaks and Geeks” EP warning her about taking the “Friends” job: “The show’s been on for what? Six seasons? It’s a well-oiled machine. You’re not going to learn that much.”
“In the end, Apatow was right,” Lin wrote. “I didn’t learn that much, except that I never wanted to work on a sitcom again.”
Variety has reached out to “Friends” co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, as well as Aniston, Kudrow, Schwimmer, Cox, Perry and LeBlanc, for comment.
In the years since Lin left Hollywood in 2008, the creatives behind “Friends” have grappled with its legacy. Last year, Kauffman told the Los Angeles Times that she’s so “embarrassed” by and feels such “guilt” over the lack of diversity on “Friends.” She donated $4 million to create the Marta F. Kauffman ‘78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis University.
“It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of,” Kauffman said. “That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct.”
“Friends” star Kudrow made headlines in 2020 for noting the show’s lack of diversity, saying if it was made today “it would not be an all-white cast.” Yet, Kudrow defended Kauffman and Crane in 2022, saying they simply “wrote about their lives after college” and “have no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of color.”
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