Although Ross and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they romance drove the drama for 10 seasons of Friends, the iconic sitcom’s most stable and relatable coupling was that of Monica and Chandler. However, a new book in honor of the show’s 25th anniversary reveals that their relationship was never intended to happen — or last long.
According to Saul Austerlitz’s new book, Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, the idea of hookup between control freak Monica (Courteney Cox) and sarcastic-to-a-fault Chandler (Matthew Perry) “began as a whim.”
“When the second season was being planned, one of the writers tossed out an idea: ‘What if we get Chandler and Monica together?’” he writes. “The thought was intended less as a permanent shift in the gravity of the series and more as a fun plotline, good for a few episodes before the status quo snapped back into place.”
One writer called the idea “a little desperate,” and it wasn’t brought back up until the staff started mapping out season 4, when someone suggested it as a funny conclusion to Monica’s drunken night of self-doubt during Ross’ London wedding to Emily. The writers’ room was split, according to Generation Friends: “There was a fear … that bringing Chandler and Monica together would be perceived as near-incestuous” since they’d always been platonic pals.
Even when everyone agreed to the plot point, they pictured it as a onetime hookup played for laughs. But when the scene was filmed on a London soundstage, the studio audience went wild as Monica emerged from Chandler’s bed.
“The cheers and hoots of delight went on and on, drowning out the performers and shaking the room,” Austerlitz says. And the writers couldn’t ignore that passionate response. Despite a pact to let what happened in London stay in London, Monica and Chandler continued surreptitiously dating back home in New York, eventually moving in together, getting married and adopting twins.
Executive producer Scott Silveri recounted their fateful first hookup in a 2013 interview with Vulture.
“When Monica popped up from beneath the sheets, there was just this explosion from the audience,” he said. “It was a combination of a laugh/gasp/cry/shriek. They were just blown away by it. It was so intense, for the second or third takes, instead of watching the monitors, I just turned around and watched the audience.”
Silveri also revealed that Cox and Perry were hesitant about a longterm relationship between their characters.
“I don’t think anybody balked too much at them hooking up. That felt natural. The fallout came in the following year, when it became a relationship,” he said.” But as Monica and Chandler’s romance blossomed slowly, the actors got on-board.
“If you didn’t have a Monica-and-Chandler relationship, if the center of Friends had remained Ross and Rachel, you would’ve seen a much shorter shelf life for the show,” Silveri said. “Without Monica and Chandler, it ends three years earlier. I don’t owe my whole house to them, but at least two bedrooms and a bath are because of them.”
Fans are still obsessed with the couple, too; in May, they celebrated Monica and Chandler’s 18th wedding anniversary on social media. Jennifer Aniston has said she thinks Ross and Rachel would still be together, too. Still, don’t expect to see the Central Perk crew reuniting on-screen.
“People ask us all the time, ‘Will we ever do a remake?’ That was a story about these group of people that are friends in their 30s who are finding themselves. I don’t know if there’s a way to redo it,” Cox, 55, told PEOPLE last October. “I just don’t see it happening. Even though I would do anything to be in a room with all of those people acting and having a great time. But I don’t see it happening.”
“I fantasize about it. It really was the greatest job I ever had,” she continued. “I don’t know what it would look like today, but you never know. So many shows are being successfully rebooted.”