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'Friends'' Monica Geller Was A 'Slut' And A 'Trollop,' According To NBC's Former West Coast President

Posted: 05/02/2012 5:42 pm

This month's Vanity Fair includes an oral history of everyone's favorite ten-season sitcom, "Friends," an excerpt from former NBC president's upcoming book "Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV." And according to the piece, Monica Geller's sex life became something of an issue for the network -- specifically Don Ohlmeyer, NBC's West Coast president at the time.

Marta Kauffman, one of the show's co-creators, discusses testing out the 1994 pilot of "Friends" in front of an audience:

One subplot in the pilot has Monica going on a first date with "Paul the wine guy." She brings him home for the night after he confesses that he hasn't been able to sleep with anyone for two years, since his wife left him. The next day, Monica learns this was just a line.

MARTA KAUFFMAN: We were doing the network run-through with an audience, and Don said that when Monica slept with Paul the wine guy she got what she deserved -- that's how he rationalized it. Fire began to come out of my nose.
They handed out a questionnaire to the audience: Do you think Monica sleeping with wine guy makes her (a) a slut, (b) a whore, (c) a trollop. And even with the deck stacked that way, the audience didn't care [about the sex].

Slut, whore, trollop? Since these aren't words that I'd use to describe any woman -- and since no one has used the word "trollop" since approximately 1907 -- it's easy to understand why Kauffman and her team were furious. That "Friends" made such an effort to put its female characters on comedic par with their male counterparts had to have made that poll even more frustrating. Phoebe, Rachel and Monica had just as many hilarious gaffes, one-liners and slapstick scenes as Joey, Chandler and Ross did.

For Kauffman, who'd faced many hurdles building her career as a funny woman writing funny female characters, Ohlmeyer's attitude probably hit especially close to home. "It's a boys club," she told the New York Times in December 1997. "I think it has been harder for women to identify themselves as funny. I feel like I'm alone at times, fighting against a wall."

Luckily, it seems like the "Should women be having casual sex?" debate has become a moot issue in the TV industry, the way the "Are women funny?" conversation hopefully has as well. In the years since "Friends" debuted (and in the years before it premiered -- hello, "Beverly Hills 90210"), we've seen dozens of other comedies featuring funny women who had casual sex and didn't feel guilty -- or get guilt-tripped -- about it. "Sex and the City" may be the most iconic, and "Girls" the most recent, but let's not forget "How I Met Your Mother," "Desperate Housewives," "Weeds," "Will & Grace," "The L Word," "The Good Wife," "Bones," "Grey's Anatomy," "Ally McBeal" ... and on and on.

Fortunately for viewers, Ohlmeyer's sentiments didn't win out. And we got to watch Monica Geller's (often hilarious) sexcapades for ten great years.

Also, in case you're curious, here's the "wine guy" in question:

 

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