Few sitcoms have come as close to being a worldwide phenomenon as much as the Jennifer Aniston-starrer F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The show was all the rage during its original airing in the 90s and received renewed glory when it started streaming on Netflix, with a whole new generation falling in love with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe.
Stars of the show such as Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, and Matt LeBlanc became household names. However, this global stardom almost blew up in the faces of the creators when the second season episode, ‘The One With The Lesbian Wedding’ was banned from airing on a few networks in the USA.
Why Was An Iconic F.R.I.E.N.D.S Episode Banned From Airing?
The show, F.R.I.E.N.D.S was remarkably progressive for its time, depicting layered and unorthodox relationships in a mainstream setting. Early in the series, the makers aired an episode that depicted a lesbian wedding which reportedly drew controversy and discussion in the NBC network. The episode featured actors Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht, who play Ross’ ex-wife Carol and her partner Susan respectively.
Creator Marta Kauffman revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the episode made the network extremely scared so much so that they were expecting many viewers to complain and had set up over a hundred operators to deal with them. Kauffman mentioned in the interview,
“When we did the lesbian wedding episode of Friends, everybody was up in arms. NBC put 104 operators on for fear of getting a million phone calls. They got two.”
The show was reportedly banned by two networks, KJAC-TV and WLIO as they objected to the content of the show. Actors Sibbett and Hecht in an appearance on the talk show Lorraine mentioned that these discussions only furthered the curiosity among audiences and the episode had great viewership. Sibbett said,
“But it all worked out as we got so much press because they blocked it. We actually won awards for that storyline…I remember meeting a man at one awards ceremony that was held by an organization that works with gay families. He said to me that if he’d had Carol and Susan as role models when he was a young boy, he probably wouldn’t have tried to [die by] s*icide so many times. I hadn’t even thought of that.”
The episode was the second same-sex marriage to be aired on a sitcom and was one of the first mainstream portrayals in TV history. The episode reportedly won an award from the organization Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Jennifer Aniston’s Iconic Sitcom Was Way Ahead Of Its Time
The sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S marked a cultural shift in the way young people in their 20s were depicted on primetime television. The show portrayed unconventional relationships that were more liberal in their approach toward family, marriage, kids, etc. The sitcom was also noted for giving the three female leads Jenifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow unconventional pregnancies on the show.
Early in the series, Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe took a decision to be a surrogate to her half-brother Frank Buffay Jr.’s triplets as he and his wife were unable to conceive. Courtney Cox’s Monica too had an unconventional motherhood where she and Matthew Perry’s Chandler choose to adopt after they realize that they are unable to conceive. The main plot of the last season centered around the couple’s adoption, with the series finale revealing that they adopted twins.
Jennifer Aniston played Rachel Green and was the central part of the show with her on-again/off-again relationship with Ross. Rachel gets pregnant in season eight of the series after having a one-night stand with Ross. She decides to keep the baby, naming her Emma, and be a single mom until she ends up back with Ross in the series finale.