The Los Angeles Times would like the show “Friends” to go back in time and retroactively feature a more diverse cast.
“It should have been subtitled, ‘The One Where they Ignored Diversity — Again,’” television reporter Greg Braxton wrote in a column published a day after the series’ much-anticipated reunion aired on HBO Max.
Braxton went on to say that, given today’s more “diverse and inclusive” TV landscape, “it’s uncomfortable — if not outright inappropriate — to raise a glass to a sitcom that was so blind to the multiculturalism of the world where it took place.”
He also argued the show’s timing, appearing a year after George Floyd’s death “sparked massive protests against police brutality and amid the ongoing conversation about race relations and white supremacy,” made its lack of focus on race all the more offensive.
In separate interviews with The Hollywood Reporter, Friends’ executive producer Kevin Bright and creator Marta Kauffman defended their casting choices, saying they were based on chemistry not color.
“For the parts of Chandler and Phoebe, we saw everybody and we picked what we thought were the two best actors. There are different priorities today and so much has changed,” Bright said, adding, “It’s important for today’s shows to be reflective of the ways society truly is. But for our experience, the three of us, that may have been our experience when we were young and in New York. But we didn’t intend to have an all-white cast. That was not the goal, either. Obviously, the chemistry between these six actors speaks for itself.”
When asked if, given the criticism the show has faced recently, he would have done anything differently, Bright said, “No. I don’t have any regrets other than hindsight. I would have been insane not to hire those six actors. What can I say? I wish Lisa [Kudrow] was black?”
For her part, Kauffman told THR, “We saw people of every race, religion, color. These were the six people we cast. So, it was certainly not conscious.”
The heyday of nineties sitcoms also included many hits where the casts were mostly or entirely black, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Martin,” and “Living Single.” In fact, Queen Latifah, star of “Living Single,” told “Late, Late Show” host James Corden in 2016 that her series about a group of six African American pals living in New York City helped pave the way for “Friends.”
“I heard a rumor which I think could be true which was that ‘Living Single’ was a jumping off point for another huge sitcom on NBC, right?” Corden asked. “Yes, ‘Friends,’” Latifah responded, smiling. “And it was interesting, because when ‘Living Single’ came out, shortly thereafter, Warren Littlefield, who was president of NBC, they asked him if he could have any show on television, any of the new shows, which one would it be. And he said, ‘Living Single.’ It was in the newspaper. And the next thing you know, here comes ‘Friends.’”
Latifah concluded by calling “Friends” an “amazing show” and remarking that NBC did a “great job” with it.
“Friends” isn’t the only beloved nineties sitcom getting renewed attention at the moment. “The Fresh Prince” will be getting a “gritty” reboot on NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock. No word on whether some of the original roles will be recast as white.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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