'Friends' debuted on NBC 20 years ago today - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Friends' debuted on NBC 20 years ago today

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NEW YORK (CNN) - If it hasn't been your day -- or even your year -- you can still count on a select group of "Friends" to make you smile.

The NBC sitcom — which starred Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow as a group of six friends in New York City — is just as popular in 2014 as it was when it premiered on Sept. 22, 1994.

Turn on the TV any day of the week, and you're likely to bump into a “Friends” rerun. On channels like TBS and Nickelodeon, episodes of the sitcom are scheduled with such regularity it's as though it never left the air 10 years after its run ended.

Don't mistake that prevalence for perfection. “Friends” did have what some viewers considered to be glaring flaws, most notably the show's lack of diversity. But thanks to the chemistry of the cast and the relatable storylines, catching an episode of “Friends” often feels like dropping by an old buddy's living room.

From Monica Geller's purple apartment, to the foosball table in Joey and Chandler's place across the hall, to the orange couch in the crew's coffee house of choice, the hallmark of “Friends” was in its comfortable familiarity.

Warner Bros. understood that well, as the studio paired with Eight O'Clock Coffee to host a pop-up replica of the infamous “Friends” coffee bar, Central Perk, in New York over the weekend preceding “Friends” 20th anniversary on September 22.

As “Friends” actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther the barista, told CNN at the event, Warner Bros. had essentially made “a 'Friends' museum,” although the replica was “considerably bigger than the set.”

“The set was built on a forced perspective, so on TV it looks a lot bigger than it actually was. It was pretty narrow and you had to kind of squeeze to get around some of the tables in the back,” Tyler said.

The actor, a natural brunette who dyed his hair its more familiar platinum shade for the occasion, recalled how difficult it was filming that last Central Perk scene.

It was “tough to shoot in two ways,” Tyler said. “As the character Gunther, it was like his closure … And on the other level, it was sad because this is the last time I'm going to be Gunther and I'm going to be acting with these wonderful people that I've known for 10 years … we became a family.”

As hard as it was to say goodbye to those co-stars, it was hard to say goodbye to that set, too. According to Tyler, it was torn down after the finale was taped.

“They didn't destroy it, but they dismantled it right after that scene while we were still shooting in front of a live audience!” Tyler revealed. “I said my lines… and it was rip, rip, rip — boom walls, couches being moved out that had been there for 10 years, and I'm like ‘No, that's my home!'”

The actor did get to keep an item from the set, however: “The wardrobe department allowed me to keep the tie that Gunther wore in the very last scene,” Tyler said. “And I took it to the wrap party that we had for the final episode and the entire cast signed it with Sharpies. I still have it; I'm not getting rid of it.”

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