Watch the original ‘Friends’ introduction without the fountain
(Credits: Warner Brothers Television)


Watch the original 'Friends' introduction without the fountain

A memorable credit scenes isn’t obligatory for any TV series seeking to attain iconic status, but it certainly helps. There are many reasons why Friends remains so popular more than 20 years after wrapping up its ten-season run, and the introduction is just one of those key components.

The Rembrandts may have initially formed in 1989 and are still going strong to this day after releasing six studio albums, but they’ll be dining out on the residuals from Friends for the rest of their lives after ‘I’ll Be There For You’ became the soundtrack to an era-defining sitcom.

Even now, audiences rewatching the show can’t help themselves from clapping at the right moment, but they almost didn’t make the cut. R.E.M. were asked if they’d be happy to let ‘Shiny Happy People’ serve as the musical accompaniment to the Friends intro, but after they declined, the replacement track was hastily written by the creative team and handed off to the band, even though they didn’t want to do it.

However, as the only band contracted to Warner Bros. Records who were available at the time, the group recorded the composition crafted by Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman’s husband Michael Skloff and ended up securing their own timeless spot in small screen history to make a mockery of their initial hesitance.

In an alternate world it could have been R.E.M., and in the same alternate world the show wouldn’t have even been called Friends, either. The teleplay for the pilot was written under the title Friends Like Us, and even after it was ordered to series, the adventures of the Central Perk sextet were given a rebrand to Six of One, because Friends Like Us was too similar to rival comedy These Friends of Mine.

To paraphrase Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, along the line somebody must have said, “Drop the ‘Like Us’. It’s cleaner,” and Friends was born. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry were cast in the lead roles, the pilot episode was shot in early 1994, the first season filmed that summer, and the end product premiered in September.

Just like that, a new cultural sensation was born, which over the course of the next decade would go on to become one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. Friends Like Us hardly has the same panache as the shortened title, and ‘Shiny Happy People’ doesn’t quite fit the bill to anywhere near the same extent as ‘I’ll Be There For You’, but it could have been so much different.