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Oh, The Power They Had Back Then: How the President of NBC Entertainment Helped Kill Off a CBS Show to Make Sure Jennifer Aniston Could Play Rachel on ‘Friends’

Aug 23, 2019  •  Post A Comment

“It may be hard to believe, but next month marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, ‘Friends!’” writes Brian Galindo for Buzzfeed.

Galindo then goes on to explain how Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel character may have only been short-lived on the show. Galindo says his information comes from a new book, Generation Friends, by Saul Austerlitz, that will be published next month.

The year was 1994. Aniston “had been cast on a brand-new CBS sitcom called ‘Muddling Through’and had shot six episodes for it,” Galino writes.

Since “Muddling Through” hadn’t been picked up at the time, Aniston auditioned for and got the part of Rachel on “Friends.” During that summer a few episodes were filmed for ‘Friend’s’ debut in September.

During the summer Aniston was filming the “Friends” episodes, CBS decided to air the six episodes of “Muddling” that they already had in the can.

“This created one big conflict,” Galino writes, “because if ‘Muddling’ became a [summer] hit and got picked up for a whole season, Jennifer would’ve been contractually obligated to stay on that show and the role of Rachel would’ve been written off ‘Friends’ mid-way through Season 1!!!”

NBC was so concerned about the situation that “Then-president of NBC, Warren Littlefield, gave an order to ‘kill it’ [Muddling] to Preston Beckman, who was then in charge of the network’s scheduling,” writes Galino.

“‘Muddling’aired on Saturday nights, so NBC decided to counter it by airing a bunch of unreleased original Danielle Steel made-for-TV movies during the same time slot,” Galino explains. “The movies would pull the female demo that the show targeted away from CBS.”

The strategy worked. “Muddling” wasn’t picked up after its initial six-episode run and Aniston went on to play Rachel’s lovable and seemingly never-ending on-and-off relationship with Ross for ten years on “Friends.”

Here’s a short piece about Aniston from “ET” in 1990, when she was 21 years old and talking about another TV series (found on YouTube).

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