‘Friends’ Actors Were ‘Unhappy to Be Chained’ to Sitcom in Later Seasons, Former Writer Says

Patty Lin reveals in her new memoir that Jennifer Aniston and co. grew sick of the show and would “deliberately tank” jokes

Friends cast
"Friends" (Credit: Warner Bros. TV)

In her new memoir, “End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood,” former TV writer Patty Lin revealed that her time writing on Season 6 of “Friends” was marked by a cast who didn’t really want to be there.

They “seemed unhappy to be chained to a tired old show when they could be branching out,” Lin wrote of the sitcom’s ensemble, which included actors Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc. “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,” she continued on her workplace difficulties, published in an excerpt via Time on Monday. “Dozens of good jokes would get thrown out just because one of them had mumbled the line through a mouthful of bacon.”

Admittedly, Lin said she was at one time excited to get in the “Friends” writers’ room after having written for Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks.” “But the novelty of seeing Big Stars up close wore off fast,” she said.

Elsewhere in the excerpt, Lin remembered having script read-throughs and rewrites with a hand from the cast, bemoaning the protectiveness they held over iconic roles like Ross and Rachel.

“Everyone would sit around Monica and Chandler’s apartment and discuss the script. This was the actors’ first opportunity to voice their opinions, which they did vociferously,” Lin said, adding that “they rarely had anything positive to say.”

“When they brought up problems, they didn’t suggest feasible solutions. Seeing themselves as guardians of their characters, they often argued that they would never do or say such-and-such,” Lin said. “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 her time working on the beloved David Crane and Marta Kauffman-created comedy series (a move that her former “Freaks and Geeks” boss Apatow advised against, saying “it’s a well-oiled machine” and “you’re not going to learn that much”), Lin went on to write for “Desperate Housewives” and “Breaking Bad” before retiring from TV writing altogether at age 38. Her account is hardly the first time the legacy of “Friends” has been considered in a new light, but it certainly doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the actors’ process in bringing their fan-favorite characters to life.