September 22, 1994 the first pilot episode of Friends was aired on NBC in the United States. Who could have imagined that this would become one of our times most popular sitcom.
Friends are by far one of our favorite TV Series. We are pleased that, before parts of the props were auctioned off, got to sit in the sofa used by friends in Central Perk, walking around in Monicas and Rachels kitchen, and even briefly touched their yellow frame on the inside of the door as well as the foosball game from Joey and Chandlers apartment, although it was not really allowed 😉
During our travels to New York and Los Angeles, we have taken the opportunity to visit some of the sites that are used in the series. Since it’s 20 years since the premiere episode aired we summarize some of these experiences to share with you.
The house where friends live
The plot of Friends was set in New York City, but the filming was mainly done in a Soundstage at Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, California. The exterior of the house they lived in, however, was filmed in New York. The house is located at the intersection of Bedford Street – Groove Street in Greenwich Village.
In the bottom floor of the house is a French restaurant; The Little Owl. It does look a bit like the exterior of Central Perk which in the plot is located near friends apartment even if the restaurant has red exterior, and Central Perk in the show are green.
But according to the production team behind Friends the real inspiration for Central Perk was a place called Arnold’s Turtle, a small restaurant on West 4th and Bank Street. The idea of a entrance in the corner of Central Perk was taken from here. Arnold’s Turtle does not exist today but in the same premises one can find Hamilton’s Soda Fountain & Luncheonette.
Warner Brothers Studio
Warner Bros. VIP Tour 2002 – So close, yet so far away…
The first time we visited the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, California was in the spring of 2002.
Filming with video-cameras were not allowed at all on the guided tour. Photos were ok, but only on certain points which meant that several times during the trip we had to put all the cameras in a large box with the tour-guide.
When the guide asked if we had any favorite shows that was filmed here Anki responded quickly -Friends. Several nodded in agreement. Our guide told us that he would of course try to get us access to the soundstage where the show was taped, but he said it tends to be quite difficult as they now were in the midst of the filming the show.
The guides checked several times during our tour if there was any possibility to get to the soundstage for Friends, but unfortunately we were not allowed to drive there. Our guide compared the accessibility to enter the Friends soundstage to visiting America’s gold reserves in Fort Knox. He said it was maximum one guided group per the week that got the opportunity to visit. And unfortunately we where not one of them.
Warner Bros. VIP Tour 2006 – We take a seat in the Friends couch
In the summer of 2006 we visited Warner Bros. Studio again. It was now two years since Friends final episode, but Friends was still one of the highlights on the guided tour.
In a part of a gigantic warehouse for props that we went through, we came to a closed door. It was clear that the guide knew that behind that door there was something very special. He opened the door and we walked into Central Perk, the coffee shop that was featured in every episode of the television series Friends.
It was not the actual soundstage where it had been filmed, but most of the furniture and props in the room were the actual things used in the show. Often all the furniture from the defunct TV show and movies are scattered adrift into different contexts in which they fit right away. Sometimes even discarted. We were very pleased to say the least, that they have chosen to keep everything. Something that would later change as they in December 2011 decided to auction off some of the most well-known Friends props, including the sofa and the yellow frame on the door.
Anki took place on a sofa just in front of the well-known window with the sign Central Perk.
Unlike the series where the street could be seen through the window, they had this set with dimmed glass. The Central Perk logo behind the couch was placed on the inside to be read from the inside. Had this been a real cafe it would have seem strange for passers-by to see the logotype inverted on the outside.
A guitar was leaning against a stool, but we could not decide if it really was the guitar that Phoebe used for Smelly Cat or not. Lasse went behind the counter, where Gunther usually kept to, ready to serve some coffee.
Underneath plastic lids was a few artificial bagels, cookies and a cake and the guide pointed out that such often was used. Before we left the room we took the unique photo opportunity to sit in the very same sofa used by Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Rachel, Joey and Ross pretty much each episode. A unique and priceless experience for the fans such as us. 🙂
Stage 24 is a large soundstage where most Friends episodes was filmed and has afterwards been renamed The Friends Stage, which can be read on a small sign outside one of the entrances.
During a visit to New York in spring 2006, we saw David Schwimmer in the role of Barney Greenwald in play The Caine Mutiny at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The play is written by Herman Wouk, and is about the trial of an officer accused of a mutiny that occurred on an American warship. In many ways the plot was similar to the movie “A Few Good Men”.
After the show people gathered around the stage door right outside. A sudden cheer was heard just a short distance away. It turned out to be Julia Roberts who left the theater next door, where she acted in the play Three Days of Rain. Unfortunately we did not get a glimpse of her, and the play was sold out.
Soon, however, opened the stage door to The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre up and David Schwimmer came out. We had not expected to get so close and unfortunately had a zoom lens on the camera, which messed up a unique chance for real close-ups but we did get some photos, even though they became a little blurry …
A barrier Fence was placed to give the actors room to quietly walk toward the cars picking them up. David Schwimmer began signing autographs to those who stood on the other side from us. He smiled and chatted a bit. Then he walked over to our side and we got a brief word with him as he signed a play program. Then he jumped into a car that instantly took off.
Central Perk in reality
Despite lots of speculation, there is no specific one Café that the creators of Friends have said is the real Central Perk. However, there are several cafes that are said to be part of the inspiration with varied decor etc.
After the series however, there has popped up several Friends cafes. There is a Friends franchise company that is registered in several countries. At the grand opening of Friends cafe in Dubai James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther in the show, was a special guest.
To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the premiere of Friends a pop-up cafe was opened on September 17, 2014 in New York City. Once again James Michael Tyler was there for the opening of the café located in SoHo. For a month, fans can visit the café and check out some of Warner Brothers props such as Joey’s dog statue, clothing used in the series and more. But above all, the visitors get the feeling of sitting in the middle of Central Perk, although the sofa and a lot of other things just is replica of that used in the studio in LA.
So if you visit New York sometime between 17 September and 18 October 2014, it can certainly be worth visiting the café, that also offers free coffee!
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