Lisa Kudrow explains why Seinfeld is largely responsible for turning Friends into a massive success. First airing on NBC in 1994, Friends is now widely considered one of the most influential sitcoms ever made. The show followed the trials and tribulations of a group of friends living in New York City, ultimately running for 10 seasons before coming to an end in 2004. In addition to Kudrow as Phoebe, Friends stars Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry.
Further solidifying the 1990s as the golden age of the TV sitcom, Friends was airing at the same time as Seinfeld, which also had a home on NBC. Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Seinfeld first aired in 1989 and would run for 9 successful seasons. Like Friends, Seinfeld is considered by many to be one of the defining sitcoms of an entire generation, as viewers tuned in each week to watch the daily lives of Seinfeld, Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander), and Kramer (Michael Richards) unfold. Although one could see how a rivalry of sorts could form between Friends and Seinfeld, Kudrow explains, in fact, that the opposite is true.
In a new interview with The Daily Beast, Kudrow explains that, actually, she largely credits Seinfeld for Friends‘ success. The actor explains that, although Friends benefited from great writing and decent season one ratings, the show only really started gaining steam after re-runs started playing directly after the already mega-successful Seinfeld. Kudrow even shares a funny story about a time she ran into Seinfeld at a party and the comedian greeted her simply by saying, “You’re welcome.” Check out Kudrow’s full comment below when asked if she ever felt competitive with Seinfeld:
No. I did not at all. Not to take anything away from the writing on Friends, or the cast, or how good Friends really was, but the first season our ratings were just fine. We held onto enough of Mad About You and starting building, but it was in the summer when we were in reruns after Seinfeld, where Seinfeld was our lead-in, where we exploded. I remember going to some party and Jerry Seinfeld was there, and I said, “Hi,” and he said, “You’re welcome.” I said, “Why, thank you… what?” And he said, “You’re on after us in the summer, and you’re welcome.” And I said, “That’s exactly right. Thank you.”
Considering Seinfeld had a 5-year head start on Friends, it was able to amass a very large following before Friends had even aired a single episode. While one could reasonably assume that Friends would have been a moderate success even without Seinfeld, Kudrow’s comment certainly suggests that it likely wouldn’t have become the cultural juggernaut that it ended up being. Seinfeld, on average, does edge out friends in terms of ratings achieved at the time but, interestingly, it’s Friends that seems to resonate more now with younger, more modern audiences.
With the rise of streaming, both sitcoms have managed to reclaim their places in the cultural landscape, with each one still proving immensely popular on its respective streaming service. While it’s easy to see why some would assume that there was a rivalry between Friends and Seinfeld during the heights of their popularity, Kudrow’s comments make clear that no such feelings existed, at least not on her part. With the TV landscape of today being so vastly different from the 1990s, it’s likely that audiences will never again see two sitcoms simultaneously enjoying the immense levels of success that both Friends and Seinfeld did during their heyday.
Source: The Daily Beast