Over its 10 seasons, “Friends” paired off almost every one of its characters in various ways. Ross and Rachel were the central relationships of the series, of course, followed by Mondler. But remember when Joey and Rachel briefly dated? Or when Phoebe and Ross made out on that pool table? Then there was the time Rachel and Monica made out for a minute to get their apartment back, and at one point, the show even teased a relationship between Rachel and Chandler.
The show was famous for its takes on sex and dating, inventing the term “friend zone” in “The One with the Blackout.” An episode advocating for safer s*x practices was found to be an effective tool for c0nd0m use education by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The main characters even shared romantic partners, intentionally or not, such as when Kate (“Criminal Minds” star Paget Brewster) cheated on Joey with Chandler, causing the latter to do penance by spending Thanksgiving in a box. Charlie (Aisha Tyler) dated both Joey and Ross, and Monica briefly dated Rachel’s high school boyfriend Chip Matthews.
But the actors who played Phoebe and Joey, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc, at one point, pitched an idea to the writers, which — if implemented — would have changed the sexual dynamics of the show forever.
What if Joey and Phoebe were friends… with benefits?
Fans have long theorized that perhaps, behind the scenes, Joey and Phoebe were hooking up throughout the entire run of “Friends.” In fact, Phoebe at one point reveals that she and Joey even have a “marriage pact” to get married by 40 if they don’t find other partners (“The One With The Proposal, part II”), though this doesn’t necessarily mean they were involved in the past.
In fact, this theory almost made it onto the show. When both Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc were interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 2016, LeBlanc let it slip that the actors had pitched a friends with benefits subplot for the pair. “Towards the end we actually pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had been having casual sex the entire time,” he said. “We’d go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognizes, there’s Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together.”
Imagine it like this: reenactments of when Rachel first entered Central Perk, or when Rachel and Ross got married in Vegas, beginning with Phoebe rearranging her clothes and Joey fixing his hair post-coitally.
The writers didn’t go for it. “They were like ‘Nah,'” said LeBlanc.
As a result, this theory remained just that — a theory — and will never be proven definitively. It’s worth noting that this exact twist later made it onto another sitcom, “Community” in Season 2. During the bottle episode “Cooperative Calligraphy,” Abed figures out that Britta and Jeff had been hooking up for months, which was as big a shock to the group as it was for viewers.
Perhaps “Friends” dodged a bullet. People were mad enough about Joey and Rachel.