On Tuesday night, “Friends” co-creator David Crane came face-to-face with a television writer who almost cost him Jennifer Aniston in the role of Rachel Green.
In 1994, future “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna was a consultant on a sitcom called “Muddling Through.” That CBS comedy starred Aniston as one of several bartenders, and had Aniston in first position — meaning she could only do other shows if “Muddling Through” was canceled. That left “Friends” in the friend zone, unsure whether Aniston could commit.
“The fear was that we would shoot four or five of them, and CBS, just to screw with NBC, would pick up ‘Muddling Through,’ and then we would have to recast and reshoot the first five episodes,” Crane said at the Wrap Emmy Screening panel for comedy show runners.
He added: “We were holding our breath the whole time, looking at the ratings. You never wish ill on another show.”
Except this one time, maybe.
“Every week we’d think please God let it go off,” said Jeffrey Klarik, Crane’s co-showrunner on “Episodes.”
“Muddling Through” was quickly canceled, freeing Aniston to jump to NBC, and into TV history.
Fortunately, Crane and McKenna can laugh about it now. Even though “Friends” dealt a blow to McKenna’s plans for another show.
Before “Friends,” she shopped around her own show about a group of 20-somethings living together. But then she attended the taping of the “Friends” pilot. She knew right away it was similar to her show — but better.
“I remember turning to my friend at the end and saying, ‘We are completely screwed,'” McKenna said.
Her friend knew Aniston was special, telling McKenna: “Who is that woman? Her hair is spectacular.”
Millions of viewers agreed.
Crane, Klarik and McKenna appeared on the panel along with star and co-showrunner of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Rachel Bloom, as well as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” showrunner Dan Goor.
Watch a clip from the panel discussion above.