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The One Where Friends' Studio Audience Wouldn't Let NBC Slut-Shame Monica

Friends

Friends has become such a cultural milestone, it's hard to imagine the show being any different. The pilot was watched by 22 million viewers alone, introducing audiences everywhere to the unforgettable worlds of Monica, Joey, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel and Chandler. However, according to series co-creator, David Crane, Monica's arc in the pilot episode was almost very different.

David Crane told Entertainment Weekly that the head of NBC, Don Meyer, wanted to alter Monica's storyline because she slept with Paul on their first date. "When we were doing the pilot, Don Meyer, who was then the head of NBC, took real issue with the fact that Monica sleeps with a guy on the first date," he explained. "He said 'We're not going to like her!' But we really held our ground on it." Crane and co. won, in the end, all because of director James Burrows' idea to use a live studio audience to test the waters of what worked and what didn't.

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Just as the Friends crew stuck to their guns, so too did NBC. "The network gave the audience a questionnaire that was so skewed," Crane added. "It basically said: 'When she does this, is she a trollop? Is she a slut?" Fortunately, the audience all replied in favor of Monica, declaring that they still adored Courtney Cox's spitfire brunette.

According to Crane, NBC gave in, but not before angering Marta Kauffman with a sexist remark about Monica "getting what she deserves" when it's revealed that Paul tricked her into bed. "I could see the steam coming out of [co-creator] Marta's [Kauffman] nose," Crane recalled.

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It seems commonplace now, but when Friends premiered, women in TV rarely were portrayed as having sex —not if they were supposed to be likable at least. Instead, women who had sex were villains, tricksters who lured unsuspecting men into bed, or without morals. In short, they certainly weren't portrayed in any positive light. Simple as it was to casually depict Monica as a woman who engaged in sexual activities, Friends' decision to do so while still portraying her as a likable, everyday woman was monumentous for the time.

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