Creating a hit show that shapes pop culture for decades takes a certain level of … unagi.
On Friday, co-creator Marta Kauffman took fans behind the scenes of Friends during a panel on her new Netflix dramedy, Grace and Frankie at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas.
Here are five things PEOPLE learned from the event. Still unknown? Whatever it was that Chandler (Matthew Perry) did on his first job. Could he be any more mysterious?
1. A "misogynist" network head thought Monica (Courteney Cox) was unlikeable for sleeping with Paul the wine guy after one date in the pilot.
“He said … ‘She deserved what she got,’ ” Kauffman told the crowd. “At which point, fire came out of my nose.”
The next day, the exec passed out a survey to the studio audience with the question: For sleeping with a guy on a date, do you think Monica is …
A) a slut
B) a whore
C) too easy
D) none of the above
Everyone, Kauffman said, chose D.
2. Paolo could have been completely different.
Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) sultry Italian neighbor turned total creep spoke so little English that he couldn’t translate Ross’s (David Schwimmer) “crap weasel” insult. But what if he had been an “eskimo,” as Kauffman phrased it?
That’s what one writer wanted to do with the character. Luckily for actor Cosimo Fusco, Kauffman overruled him, saying she couldn’t imagine Paolo substituting his Fabio-like locks for a fur hat. “What’s sexy about an eskimo?” she joked.
3. NBC didn’t think a show focused solely on young people would succeed.
“We were told by the network, ‘No one’s going to watch a show about people in their 20s. You have to have an older person,’ ” Kauffman said.
But she nixed the idea of adding in a bumbling well of wisdom, kiddingly imagined as “Pat the Cop” or “Coffee Joe,” instead bringing in the characters’ parents as a more natural solution. (But wait, what about the friends’ ballroom-dancing super, Mr. Treeger?)
As Kauffman pointed out, Ross and Monica’s mom Judy (Christina Pickles) and dad Jack (Elliot Gould) appear in the second episode ever as the paleontologist reveals his ex-wife is 1) a lesbian and 2) pregnant.
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4. Ross and Rachel were always the end game.
Kauffman said it was more fun to see TV’s most iconic will-they-or-won’t-they couple apart, but she knew they needed to have their happily ever after in the finale. “My rabbi would come up to me in the parking lot” demanding to know when they’d get back together, she said, laughing.