How the Friends episode with Ross' London wedding 'reinvigorated the show'
Although Chandler, Joey, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, and Ross lived in New York City apartments — and had the moving struggles to prove it — Friends filmed all of their coffee house chats, apartment games, and even the occasional football game in front of a live studio audience in Los Angeles. And throughout the sitcom’s 10-year, incredibly successful run, only once did the show make a major move. It was the end of season 4, and Ross was getting married … in London.
“It may have been Kevin Bright who went, ‘Oh we should go and do an episode in London,'” Friends co-creator David Crane tells EW. “There was an organic possibility there because Ross was dating someone who was British. I think Kevin was really turned on by the production challenge of it, but it also gave us some really good story stuff.”
Some really, really good story stuff. The extremely eventful two-part episode included Phoebe having to stay in New York because she was pregnant, and Rachel’s last-minute decision to fly to London to stop the wedding (which she ultimately didn’t have to do because Ross accidentally said her name at the altar and sabotaged his own big day). “We shot pieces of it on our stage [in Los Angeles], mostly the ‘Phoebe doesn’t come to London stuff,'” Crane recalls. “And then we shot the rest of it on a stage in London and actually did it three times. Normally you would only do a show once but we did three performances of it because why not? We’re in London!”
Then there was the Monica and Chandler of it all. For the first time in the show’s history, Ross’s best friend and his sister took their relationship to the next level. “When Monica and Chandler went to bed together the first time in London, the original plan wasn’t that they were going to then become a couple for the rest of the series,” Crane says. “It was one of those things where originally the thought was, ‘Oh it was just a big, quick, funny mistake and how are they going to get out of that?’ Then the more we explored it, the more stories it provided and it really reinvigorated the show.”
And it all started the instant Monica pulled back the covers to reveal she was in Chandler’s bed. “There was a live studio audience in London and all three times, that moment where we revealed Monica and Chandler in bed together, what you’re hearing on the actual show when you hear the audience scream is maybe a third of the length of what actually happened. They went crazy and we had to, for the running time of the show, pare it down. It was one of the reasons that we went, ‘Wow, maybe there’s a real ongoing thing here.'”
Although the production challenge was massive — they had to build the church, for starters — shooting on a London stage did have its perks. “It had a different vibe,” Crane says. “The studio had a bar. That was like, ‘Wow, okay, we’re having beer while we’re making the show! I guess that’s a thing here!'”