Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Originally “Friends” was going to have a season-long story where one of Ross’ girlfriends gets pregnant.
A curious challenge that long-running television series often encounter is that it is difficult continuing to give your characters forward momentum without feeling as though you are just recycling plotlines. For instance, the long-running sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” managed to stretch the seemingly simple story of the lead character meeting the mother of his kids out to nine seasons (including the final season, which took place over a single three-day weekend). One of the ways that that series handled it was to keep giving their lead character, Ted Mosby, different longterm girlfriends that could be the mother (in fact, as I detailed in an old TV Legends Revealed, a couple of them even were going to be the mother, if the show had been canceled too soon). Still, continuing to give Ted new possible mothers could certainly get repetitive after time (something even “How I Met Your Mother” co-star Jason Segel felt, leading to an interesting mocking insult of the series).
The long-running sitcom “Friends” faced a similar problem with their central romantic couple, Ross and Rachel (played by David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston). They played the “will they or won’t they?” game for the first season before getting the two together in season 2 and breaking them up in season 3. The creators of the series, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, always intended for Ross and Rachel to end up together at the end of the series. The problem was that they had no idea how long the series would run (it ended up lasting ten seasons), so they didn’t want to have them break up, get back together, break up again, get back together again, etc. So they had to come up with long-running plots that would serve to keep the pair apart until they ultimately get together in the show’s finale.
One of those plots was Rachel’s pregnancy in Season 8 (with Ross’ baby from a one-night stand between the two). However, interestingly enough, they had a whole other pregnancy plot originally planned for Season 7 with a surprising character. Read on to find out who it was!
One of the best decisions that “Friends” made was, at the end of Season 4, to hook up together two other characters from the show, Chandler and Monica (Matthew Perry and Courtney Cox). That gave the show a nice distraction from the Ross/Rachel drama and a nice change of pace for the series that gave it a strong creative transfusion (after being nominated for Best Comedy Series at the Emmys in their first two seasons, they were not nominated for Seasons 3-4 but were back to being nominated for the revitalized Season 5). After the couple were together for two seasons, the finale of Season 6 was Chandler trying to propose to Monica (they brought back Monica’s ex-boyfriend, Richard, played by Tom Selleck, to add a little drama to the mix) before ending it with Monica proposing to Chandler instead (well, they sort of proposed to each other). Friends’ seasons often end in cliffhangers, but not that one. This is because they had a cliffhanger planned but decided to go away from it. During Season 6, Ross began dating one of his former college students, Elizabeth (played by Alexandra Holden).
The show got a lot of publicity when Rachel began dating Elizabeth’s father, Paul Stevens, played by guest actor Bruce Willis (who ended up winning an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy).
Elizabeth is only in five episodes, and she and Ross eventually break up in the Season 6 finale. Originally, though, the show was going to have the cliffhanger of Season 6 be that Ross discovers that Elizabeth was pregnant!
Season 7, then, would have Ross deal with Elizabeth’s pregnancy before discovering, in the Season 7 finale, that the baby is not his. The show obviously decided against this, and they had a particularly interesting reason for doing so. You see, the show planned things well in advance and they already knew, at the end of Season 6, what their cliffhanger for Season 7 was going to be, which was that Rachel was going to be pregnant (they even knew that Ross was the father). Therefore, they believed that ultimately the Elizabeth pregnancy plot, which would have ended right about that time, would conflict with their plans for Rachel’s pregnancy (one pregnancy plot after another with Ross?), so they dropped it and instead of having a season-long plot, Elizabeth was written out of the series and Season 6 became one of their rare seasons without a cliffhanger ending.
The legend is…
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