Friends Stole Its Premise From Cheers?

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Friends Kathleen Turner

There is an uncanny resemblance between the classic sitcom Cheers and Friends, the phenomenon that hit screens 11 years after its predecessor closed its doors. One doesn’t have to look further than the pilot episode to realize that the writers who created the New York-based sitcom, which saw six pals spend a lot of their time in the Central Perk coffee shop, borrowed heavily from the employees and regular patrons of the Boston bar.

Cheers Was One Of The Largerst Sitcoms In History

The Cheers pilot, “Give Me a Ring Sometime,” begins when Diane Chambers visits the Boston bar with her fiancé Sumner on their way to get married. The reason for their stop is so that Sumner can get his family back from his ex-wife.

Eventually, Diane learns that Sumner left with his ex-wife, leaving her heartbroken. Sam Malone, the bar owner, offers her a job as a waitress out of pity. Despite being highly educated, Diane accepts the job after recalling a table’s complicated orders.

The Friends Pilot Is Eerily Similar

The Friends pilot, “The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate,” is eerily similar in premise. The episode begins at the Central Perk coffee shop, where Monica Geller and her friends Phoebe Buffay, Chandler Bing, and Joey Tribbiani discuss dating.

Ross, Monica’s older brother, arrives at the coffee shop and reveals that his ex-wife has moved in with her partner. A young woman, Rachel Green, arrives wearing a wedding dress after leaving her fiancé at the altar.

Monica recognizes Rachel, her high-school best friend, and introduces her to the others. After her father cuts off her credit card access, Rachel moves in with Monica and gets a job as a Central Perk waitress.

Monica Is Sam

courtney cox

The similarities don’t end there, as the characters in Friends possess many traits of those in Cheers. Sam was the center of the group in Cheers, and his regulars lived vicariously through him and his exploits. Monica was the binding force of her group.

While she wasn’t worshipped by her friends the way Sam was by his, she took care of the group. Everyone gathered in her apartment because it felt like home.

Rachel Is Diane

jennifer aniston

Diane, an intellectual aspiring writer, took the waitressing job out of desperation. Rachel, also a waitress, was out of her element, unlike Diane, who had a natural talent for the job. Both Diane and Rachel left their positions. Diane pursued writing, while Rachel pursued fashion.

Even The Quirky Characters Have Counterparts

Another Cheers employee, Carla, held strong spiritual beliefs and regularly consulted a fortune teller. Friends’ Phoebe shared a metaphysical spirituality. While both observed and commented on the goings on in their respective groups, Phoebe’s kindness contrasted Carla’s abrasiveness. 

Cheers’ Norm and Chandler, from the latter sitcom, were witty fixtures in their respective settings, delivering some of the series’ funniest lines. 

Ross Wishes He Was As Smart As Cliff

Cliff, although entertaining, overestimates his intelligence, often boring the other bar patrons with useless and frequently untrue anecdotes. Similarly, Ross is the intellectual in Friends, usually discussing things his friends find tedious.

Finally, Cheers’ Woody was a kind-hearted farm boy with dense but endearing qualities, much like Joey who was a loyal friend, though not the brightest of the bunch.

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

All it takes is a little game of connect the dots to see that Friends is essentially the Cheers of the mid-90s. The writers just replaced the bar with a coffeehouse, swapped Boston for New York, and tweaked the characters’ professions and backgrounds ever so slightly. Coincidence? Maybe. But since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we can let it slide.