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Friends Almost Moved to Minnesota

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Despite Friends having shot almost exclusively in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the series taking place anywhere but N.Y.C. — but for the show’s writers, that wasn’t the case.

Friends’s writers loved to subvert expectations — when viewers expected Ross to propose to Rachel, they had Joey do it instead; when Monica and Chandler’s Las Vegas wedding seemed all but inevitable, we were blindsided by the debut of “Mrs. Ross” and “Mr. Rachel.”

According to Saul Austerlitz’s book Generation Friends, the writers were so excited by the audience’s reaction to Monica and Chandler sleeping together in London (a full minute of applause was cut from the episode) that they began brainstorming ways to again surprise viewers and shake up the plot.

One of these ideas (which thankfully never came to fruition) was to move the show to Minnesota — yes, really. The plan was for Chandler to be transferred there for work, after which each friend would subsequently relocate as well. “They would discover a magical Midwestern respite from New York,” Austerlitz writes, “complete with cheap apartments, friendly neighbors, and subzero temperatures.” You know Rachel would’ve found a way to inspire people in California and Florida to start wearing parkas. The writers had planned for the series to remain Minnesota-based for half of season 5. “Everyone knew you could not relocate an iconic show to a frigid destination 1,500 miles away, which was precisely why many of the writers argued they should do it,” Austerlitz explained.

The idea began as a joke, but progressively became more and more concrete, with the writers thinking up jokes about finding a new coffee place and considering reshooting the opening credits with a frozen fountain. But all it took was pitching the concept to co-creator David Crane to put the storyline to bed for good. His response to the idea of a geographical pivot was unambiguous: “Are you out of your mind?”

If only other storylines had been shut down as quickly as the Minnesota move …