DOCUMENT: Celebrity

NBC's Failing Grade For "Friends"

Sitcom was trashed in confidential 1994 NBC research report

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NBC's Failing Grade For "Friends"

MAY 12--Though "Friends" would prove to be a lucrative ratings powerhouse, the sitcom's pilot received a failing grade and was described as "not very entertaining, clever, or original," according to an internal NBC research report obtained by The Smoking Gun.

Months before the program's debut, "Friends" was shown to test audiences that were "not very favorable" to the show or its six main characters, according to the May 1994 report. In fact, the pilot performance was graded "weak" and scored a paltry 41 out of 100. By comparison, "ER" scored a 91, though "Seinfeld" famously also earned a "weak" rating.

While Courteney Cox's Monica fared best with test audience members, her appeal was "well below desirable levels for a lead." The characters portrayed by Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry had "marginal appeal," and "Rachel, Ross, and Joey scored even lower."

A particularly stinging rebuke was delivered by adults 35 and over, who felt "this group did not really care about each other the way real friends would. They found the characters smug, superficial, and self-absorbed."

TSG couldn't stand the show, so the brutal research analysis sounded pretty accurate to us--both then and now. However, considering the show's spectacular success during its 10-year run, the NBC report is merely an odd footnote to the "Friends" success story. (4 pages)