In 2004, the cameras stopped rolling after 10 seasons on one of the best television sitcoms of all time, Friends.
Over the years, legions of fans have analyzed each of the 236 episodes, discovering countless continuity issues. There is one blatant blunder, however, that most Friends super-fans miss. It happens in several episodes, and it is one of those things you can’t unsee once noticed.
If you consider yourself a die-hard fan of the classic television series, do you know which onscreen error we have discovered?
What happened to Rachel and Monica?
Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox portrayed best friends Rachel Green and Monica Geller on the long-running hit series. They shared countless scenes over the years, bouncing off one another as seamlessly as Lucy and Ethel of I Love Lucy.
Best Life pointed out a particular scene in the Season 8 episode, “The One With Rachel’s Date,” that contains a memorable blunder. They discovered that when Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is having a conversation with Monica at the Central Perk coffee house, it’s not actually Cox: “At about six minutes and 23 seconds into the episode, you can see that Cox has been replaced by another woman. In the next shot, she’s back.”
In the Season 9 episode, “The One With the Mugging,” Rachel pulls the disappearing act. Best Life explains, “Blink and you’ll miss it, but at about the three-minute-and-13-second mark, when Joey (Matt LeBlanc) is excitedly telling Rachel and Monica about an audition he just scored, Jennifer Aniston is briefly replaced.”
The Season 8 snafu is a little more blatant than the scene with Joey, but it is definitely worth checking out.
How the mystery woman ended up in the scenes
The mystery woman that appeared in these scenes is what Hollywood calls a stand-in. The Screen Actors Guild describes the professional as a “background actor used as a substitute for another actor for purposes of focusing shots, setting lights, etc., but not actually photographed.”
To prevent downtime on set, stand-ins are called on to replace a prominent actor not currently participating in the scene so that filming can continue. A stand-in currently receives $209 for eight hours of work, presumably much more than when Friends filmed.
There was always a live audience during the production of Friends. The stand-ins gave key players like Aniston and Cox the chance to change their wardrobe, take a break, or walk off the set when they were not actively involved in the scene.
How did the blunders go unnoticed?
Refinery 29 pointed out that the blatant blunders are all about aspect ratio, which is the width and height of the frame.
Friends was filmed in the ’90s when the standard aspect ratio for television and film was 4:3. Today, a wider aspect ratio of 16:9 is the recognized standard format.
When Friends started streaming reruns on Netflix, the original aspect ratio had to be adjusted to fit the wide-screen dimensions. Refinery 29 explained, “Viewers are now seeing a wider angle of the show for the first time, which is how these errors are becoming revealed.”
Blunders aside, it is fun to see the television show exactly how it was filmed back in the ’90s. For the first time, viewers can see details outside the standard frame that were once unseen by the camera.
The newly discovered stand-in scenes are not so much a mistake as a part of television nostalgia.
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