Friends: The Original Pitch For The TV Show Friends

Here’s how Marta Kauffman and David Crane pitched the show that would become Friends to the President of NBC Entertainment, Warren Littlefield:

This show is about six people in their 20’s who hang out at this coffee house. An after hours insomnia café. It’s about sex, love, relationship, careers… a time in your life when everything is possible, which is really exciting and really scary. It’s about searching for love and commitment and security… and a fear of love and commitment and security. And it’s about friendship, because when you’re young and single and in the city, your friends are your family.

Friends In 80 Words

In 80 words, they convey:

  • Heroes (six people in their 20’s, young, single)
  • Setting (city, coffee house)
  • Themes (sex, love, relationship, careers)
  • Tone (an optimistic tone that isn’t sappy)
  • The Big Idea (your friends are your family)

What can we learn from this?

Less is more.

PS.  Read more about the genesis of Friends in Vanity Fair and Warren Littlefield’s book Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV.

"Friends" Original Pitch

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Discussion About Friends: The Original Pitch For The TV Show Friends

  1. Gabrielle H.

    What a great post! Those 80 words really do say it all.

    I definitely plan on reading Mr. Littlefields book. Hearing him talk about his career at NBC really make me think of a time when TV was truly great and NBC was king.

  2. Gabby

    This is a really thoughtful way of approaching a pitch. Not surprising since your Ten Tips for being Good in a Room are truly valuable.

  3. Steve Burks

    If I had not already seen the show (and therefore didn’t have the benefit of the real-world illustration), this “Friends” idea might have struck me as too non-specific, boring even. “A show about a bunch of friends hanging out? That’s the core idea? Where’s the drive shaft? [Aaron Sorkin’s term] And you’re calling it ‘Friends’? Come on!” So maybe, buyers judge more than just the pitch? Might Marta & David’s pre-pitch credibility (presuming they had some, since they got into that room) have positively influenced the perception of the buyers? Put another way, if some nobody with a middle-American area code gave that same pitch, would it have been bought? It may have, for all I know. But I just wonder to what extent the perception of cosmetic variables leaks over into how pitches are viewed. Example: when I was in college, a trumpet-player classmate played with his mouthpiece off to the side of his lips (considered bad technique). The professor said the tone was bad. (It wasn’t.) The student called it “listening with your eyes.”

    I LOVE this blog Stephanie!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Great points, Steve! Yes, Marta & David’s pre-pitch credibility was significant and was a key factor in selling the pitch. They had just done Dream On and were well-known by Warren Littlefield and the NBC execs. Also, a clarification. At the time they were pitching the show, it was called “Insomnia Cafe.” Later, the title was changed to “Friends.”

    • Marcello Aurelio Lanfranchi

      I have to agree with Steve. I loved that show, but this pitch doesn’t feel at all to me like the end product. In fact, it seems more like The Wonder Years (which I adored) but without that hook of a tween boy growing up in the tumultuous late ’60s.

      But I guess that’s what followup questions are for. I’m glad Littlefield had faith in Kauffman and Crane.

  4. Lee

    Thank you, you have become a valuable resource with all the nuggets of wisdom on your blog. The pitches that worked appear deceptively easy to construct and deliver. It’s that paradox that the easier it looks the more difficult it usually is.

    I’m a newcomer here (from Vancouver Canada) and will definitely incorporate your blog into my daily routine. Thanks again!

  5. Good In A Room: The Blog (TIPS) | Pete Chatmon

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  6. Colin

    Easily in my top five category of funniest and best shows in prime time history.
    Everyone on this show is so witty and delivers their lines superbly that it’s hard not to like all of them equally. However, I do have my favorite characters/actors/actresses, as I’m sure everyone who has watched the show even once or twice, to those who are avid fans of it.

    It is a collection of memories.

  7. scott

    Stephanie, Did you know that because of a bet between Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis, on the set of the “Whole Nine Yards”, (which Perry won), Willis did a two-episode guest role for free. I found all kinds of trivia like this at http://www.endedtvseries.com You should check it out!

  8. Nichole

    Hi Stephanie,
    are you still hosting online classes to learn how to pitch?
    Nichole

  9. Ernest Kunitake

    I remember this show had a different friends name(and pilot) before the regular cast that we know. I remember this because of the line where Monica is accused of being too much of a flirt and she says “What do you mean?” one of the guys says you told the worker at the gas station “Are you going to pump me or do I have to do it myself?!” bahahahahahahaa

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