Friends Creator Says She Did the Super Bowl Episode to Protect Women From ‘Being Beaten’

Photo: NBC

The two-part Friends Super Bowl episode from 1996 garnered a historic 56 million viewers, who eagerly watched Chandler naked and afraid in a bathroom stall and Ross expose zoo corruption to find his pet monkey. (Julia Roberts was also there, as was Chris Isaak. He didn’t have a great time, though.) But co-creator Marta Kauffman had a different rationale for agreeing to do the episode, besides the silly cameos and guaranteed smash ratings. Speaking to THR for a new oral history of the episode, Kauffman said that she was more concerned about using the extra hour of screen time to help domestic-abuse victims at their most vulnerable. “I wanted to do it because I had heard a statistic that Super Bowl Sunday is the day associated with the most number of partner abuse,” she explained. “My thinking was that if this helps one woman from being beaten, I’m all for it.” Kauffman’s statistic has since been disproven.

Elsewhere in the oral history, episode guest actor Jean-Claude Van Damme (who plays himself and is romantically pursued by Monica and Rachel) was described by various writers and producers as “difficult,” “unprepared,” and “arrogant,” whose demands included forcing a PA to bring him Cocoa Puffs cereal. “He arrived at the set three or four hours late and went straight to his trailer,” one executive producer recalled. Brooke Shields, on the contrary, was described as “hitting it out of the park” as a deranged soap-opera fan who stalks Joey, despite her boyfriend at the time, tennis star Andre Agassi, flying into a jealous rage and “eviscerating” Shields when she licked Matt LeBlanc’s hand during a take. (Shields previously wrote about this incident in her memoir.) “I broke the show for awhile, and the girls took Brooke aside and loved her, took care of her, and got her back on that stage,” the episode’s director recalled about Agassi’s behavior. “She did great because of the support of those three. He was a jackass.” Now, onward to the reunion

Friends Creator Says She Did Super Bowl Ep to Protect Women