‘Friends’ is iconic but it originally had a very different name.
Would you watch a show called Insomnia Cafe? Whether or not you would but the fact is millions of people did, for ten years, no less. By the time the show made it to air, it got the more prosaic name of Friends. Insomnia Cafe sounds like the name of a coffee shop in a college town. Instead, it was the original name of Friends.
Friends was originally called Insomnia Cafe (and a bunch of other things). In the early 1990s, Friends co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman wrote a seven-page pitch for a new sitcom titled Insomnia Café.
In addition to the different title, the plot itself was quite different from what came to be known as Friends. At this stage of the game, Ross and Rachel weren’t the key relationships; Joey and Monica were. After NBC bought the pilot, the title got closer to what it became: Friends Like Us. Another suggested title was Across the Hall.
When the shooting started it almost had an odd name ‘Insomnia Cafe’ – six of one. But by the time the show premiered on September 22, 1994, NBC shortened one of the suggested title to ‘Friends’ which was simple and to the point.
This odd combination was not only restricted to the title of the show but also reached to the characters in the show. Kathy Griffin and Jane Lynch met when both were auditioning for the part of Phoebe. Iron Man director Jon Favreau and Jon Cryer were considered for Chandler before the role went to Perry. The producers wanted Cox to play Rachel, but she persuaded them to give her Monica instead.