Friends premiered on Thursday, September 22, 1994, at 8:30, to generally good reviews and solid but not initially spectacular ratings.
DAVID CRANE: We had absolutely no idea what this show was going to be. For us, it was just another pilot. We’d just had a series canceled. We were thinking we’d never work again, so we were scrambling. You pitch a bunch of stuff. We were doing this thing at Fox and at NBC. Friends was feeling good, but it was just another pilot. Or it was just another pilot until Jimmy Burrows wants to direct it. Excuse me, James Burrows. We thought, That’s crazy.
And he really embraced what we wanted to do. In the pilot, the structure is really loose. We started out doing a much more traditional story. It still had to do with Rachel leaving a guy at the altar, but we had an original version where her parents came, and the act break [before going to a commercial] was her parents’ showing up. It wasn’t good. We approached it again and made it much looser. The structure is loose and unconventional. There’s no event at the act break. Ross [whose wife, a lesbian, has left him] and Rachel are each looking out at the rain. In a pilot, that seems crazy. You couldn’t do it today, and I’m surprised we did that then.