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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22, 1994

Hey there smiling faces!  Well, okay, I'm only assuming you're smiling.  Some of you may be frowning, and that's okay for now.  But I hope that after you read today's Tuesday Timeline post that it will cheer you up.

Trust me.  I'll be there for you today.

So, I'm just going to go ahead with today's look back throughout history.  Wondering what happened on September 22 throughout history?  Let's investigate!

1598 - Ben Jonson, an English playwright, challenges an actor to a duel which results in the actor's death and Jonson charged with manslaughter

1692 - The last public hanging of people charged with witchcraft in New England takes place

1776 - Nathan Hale is hanged for spying during the American Revolution

1789 - The office for the United States Postmaster is created

1862 - A preliminary version of The Emancipation Proclamation is released

1888 - National Geographic is first published

1896 - Queen Victoria officially becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history

1919 - The Steel Strike begins in Pennsylvania

1941 - In Vinnytsya, Ukraine, six thousand Jews are murdered by the German SS during World War II

1955 - British channel ITV goes on the air for the first time

1975 - Sara Jane Moore attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford, but is stopped before she could strike

1980 - Iraq invades Iran, kicking off the Iran-Iraq War

1989 - Composer Irving Berlin dies in New York City, aged 101

1991 - The Dead Sea Scrolls are made public for the first time, courtesy of the Huntington Library

1996 - Actress Dorothy Lamour passes away at the age of 81

1999 - Actor George C. Scott dies at the age of 71

2003 - Actor Gordon Jump passes away at the age of 71

And for celebrity birthdays, we have to wish the following people a very happy birthday; Rosamunde Pilcher, Tommy Lasorda, James Lawson, Marlena Shaw, Toni Basil, David Coverdale, Bobby Radcliff, Richard Fairbrass, David Wohl, Shari Belafonte, Debby Boone, Nick Cave, Andrea Bocelli, Lynn Herring, Joan Jett, Mark Patton, Scott Baio, Bonnie Hunt, Catherine Oxenberg, Ruth Jones, Matt Besser, Kim Watkins, Rupert Penry-Jones, Chesney Hawkes, Ashley Eckstein, Billie Piper, Katie Lowes, Laura Vandervoort, Tatiana Maslany, Tom Felton, Bethany Dillon, and Chase Ellison.

Okay, so let's take a look at today's Tuesday Timeline date.

September 22, 1994.  I remember that date.  I was weeks into the eighth grade.  I was thirteen years old.  And, I now am feeling really old now because I am realizing that this date took place 21 years ago!

Now, this week in the world of pop culture is traditionally known as a big week.  Usually the third week in September is known as "Premiere Week" for the new fall season.  Many television shows debut around this time of year, and for returning shows, the third week in September is when these shows have their season premieres.

September 22 has been a date in which a lot of popular television series have debuted.  "Charlie's Angels", "Family Ties", "ALF", "Full House", "Baywatch", "Family Matters", "The West Wing", "Two and a Half Men", and "The Good Wife" all debuted on September 22.  How's that for one powerful television date, huh?

But one show I left off from that list happens to be the discussion topic for today.  It was a show that debuted twenty-one years ago today and ran for ten seasons, and it kept audiences laughing throughout 236 episodes on NBC.

One of the reasons the show lasted so long was because at no point during the show did it ever seem stale.  The show stayed strong throughout its entire run, going out when it was still relatively near the top of the ratings - heck, its final episode was watched by over 52 MILLION people alone!

And another reason why the show stayed on the air so long was due in part to the fantastic sextet of actors and actresses who kept the chemistry going for ten whole years.  It's very rare for a show to run for ten years without losing at least one cast member, so it definitely is a testament that Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer had such great chemistry as co-workers...and friends.

That's right, everybody.  Prepare to be amazed.  Twenty-one years ago today, "Friends" debuted on television. 

It was the series that launched the acting careers of six people (though to be fair, many of them had already acted in bit parts before this series came to be), it was the series that inspired a haircut (how many of you will admit to having the "Rachel"?), and it was the series that asked the question "Will Ross and Rachel EVER get together?"

So, rather than talk about the plotlines and the characters of the show (I don't want to use up all my potential future topics), I thought I'd use this opportunity to discuss how the show was created in the first place.

And our story actually begins in the winter of 1993/1994.

The show was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and it was one of three pilot ideas that were pitched by the duo for the 1994/1995 television season.  They were trying to get at least one of them greenlit for production, as their previous project, "Family Album" was cancelled in 1993 after just six episodes.

One of those pilot ideas would eventually become the television show "Friends", but it didn't quite start out that way.  Would you believe that the original title of the show was supposed to be "Insomnia Cafe"?  You have to admit, "Friends" rolls off the tongue a lot better.

The original description of the show was pitched as this.  "It's about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when anything's possible.  And it's about friendship because when you're single and in the city, your friends are your family."

Certainly a description that a lot of twentysomethings just starting out in the world could relate to.  I know when I was in my twenties, this was the case - well, at least for a couple of years, anyway.

Crane and Kauffman pitched their idea to production partner Kevin Bright - who himself had served as the executive producer of the successful cable show "Dream On" - a show that Crane and Kauffman had created, and Bright liked the idea.  But it was up to the executives at NBC to make the final call.

Well, as luck would have it, then president of NBC Entertainment, Warren Littlefield, was looking at adding a new comedy to his programming block - a show about young people living together and sharing expenses and learning about life, but any of the scripts that were presented to him he deemed not suitable.

At least, that was until he received the concept for "Insomnia Cafe" and immediately liked the premise.  And, with Littlefield's blessing, NBC bought the concept as a put pilot - which meant that if a pilot did NOT get filmed, NBC would face a financial penalty.  Still, it was a risk that Littlefield wanted to take, and so Crane and Kauffman went to work on a pilot script, which was originally titled "Friends Like Us".

Littlefield liked the script, but argued that he had wanted to tool the show so that it reflected the ideals of Generation X, but Crane and Kauffman argued back that it wouldn't be a good idea to focus on one generation of people when the show could be relatable to anybody.  NBC greenlit the pilot episode, but retitled the show as "Six of One", as the title "Friends Like Us" was similar to another show that was airing on ABC entitled "These Friends Of Mine".  At some point before the show debuted, the show was changed to the familar title of "Friends", and "These Friends Of Mine" later changed the name of their show to "Ellen"!

As far as the casting went, David Schwimmer was the first one hired as Ross.  Crane and Kauffman had worked with him in the past and felt that he was the best actor to play Ross.  Courteney Cox had auditioned for the role of Monica and won it, but initially producers had her set in mind to play Rachel instead.  Rachel, of course, went to Jennifer Aniston who was cast based on her audition, as were Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow as Chandler and Phoebe respectively.  As for Matt LeBlanc, his casting was unusual in that the producers were actually told by NBC to cast him as Joey.  And LeBlanc's audition actually caused the producers to rewrite the character to fit more of LeBlanc's personality into the character.

And granted, during the first season of the show, there was a lot of experimentation with the actors and just how much of themselves they were willing to put into their characters.  By the show's second season, all six characters had gotten into the groove, and ratings steadily increased.

Who knew that when the pilot episode aired on September 22, 1994 that it would become one of the most popular modern day sitcoms to ever air on network television?  And, really, who ever knew that "Friends" would essentially be the last show that would keep NBC as Must See TV?  Seriously, ever since "Friends" stopped airing, the network has not done well with sitcoms.  At all.

But when we saw Rachel flee from her wedding and move in with her best friend, Monica, who introduced her to her brother Ross and their mutual friends Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey...well, we knew that television magic was being made.  And all of the coffeehouse coffee and Rachel haircuts couldn't compare to the fact that we were seeing true friendships develop both on and off the screen.

Friendships that continue twenty-one years later.

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