Friends Spinoffs That Could Have Been

I hold a number of personal theories. Some of you might describe them as conspiracy theories, but they would be wrong: a conspiracy requires more than one person's involvement.

Of everything I suspect to be true about the world, the fact with the most terrifying ramifications is this: we are living in one of six separate yet parallel realities, each of which was split from a single shared reality sometime in 2004. What was the cause of this split? The decision of the character on which to base a spinoff of the NBC television programme Friends. We are living in the Joey universe.

What should be noted about all six universes is that Friends itself happened in exactly the same way in every one of them. As you will see this led to some universes' spinoffs having a convoluted setup compared to our Joey spinoff. Of course, the subject of the spinoff is not the only difference between our universes.

The Chandler Universe

Chandler takes place a year or so after the finale of Friends. Monica has died tragically of an unspecified illness, leaving Chandler a single dad raising their adopted children. It is a primarily workplace-based comedy. Chandler has moved to Chicago to work for a large advertising firm. Notable members of the supporting cast include Jake Johnson, who plays the intern Sam, and Nathan Fillion, who plays Chandler's rival in copywriting Dax Rigby. The show ran for three seasons.

This universe is the one most like ours. The failed Nathan Fillion vehicles that we saw here were never produced as he was employed by NBC in the aftermath of Firefly's cancellation. Castle was his next gig after Chandler wrapped up. Mad Men was never created either. It seems that their Matthew Weiner wasn't willing to create a show based in an advertising agency for fear of comparisons to the network sitcom. Or he was killed in a car wreck. I don't have all the details to be honest.

During the 2008 financial crisis Iceland issued a blanket guarantee of its banks, beginning a series of events that led to the country being ruled by the world's first corporate government. Somehow, due to the Comcast Corporation's interest in the governing of Iceland, 2015's Jurassic World was never produced in the Chandler universe.

In 2010's Iron Man 2 Elon Musk played a larger role than in our version of the film. He essentially filled the position of Rhodey after Terrence Howard's departure from the franchise. Musk, playing himself, donned the War Machine armour to help defeat Mickey Rourke's Whiplash in the film’s climax.

The Monica Universe

The premise of Monica is almost identical to that of Chandler. Except it is Chandler who has died -- specifically of necrotising fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. Also a workplace comedy, the show takes place in a Chicago restaurant where Monica is head chef.

In pre-production the show was merged with another sitcom in development based on Anthony Bourdain's bestselling book Kitchen Confidential. The Kitchen Confidential sitcom of our universe was never made. The one cast member from our version to also star in Monica was Joss Whedon alumnus Nicholas Brendon. Nathan Fillion played Monica's sous chef and love interest Dax Rigby.

Fillion left the show midway through its fifth season to take the title role on Castle. He was replaced by his former Firefly co-star Alan Tudyk, though critics noted he failed to produce the same chemistry with Courteney Cox as his predecessor. Monica was cancelled after an abbreviated seventh season.

One quirk of this universe is that Bradley Cooper's post-Alias career floundered without his leading role in our short-lived Kitchen Confidential series. His last major role was as the jerk in Wedding Crashers that the script had to work really, really hard to make worse than Owen Wilson's character.

His characters in David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle were played by Jason Bateman and Jake Johnson respectively. The Hangover trilogy ended up starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson. The voice of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy was provided by Ringo Starr. Cooper himself fled the US in 2011 claiming the CIA, on the orders of the Icelandic corporate government, wanted to assassinate him. He now runs a YouTube channel about chemtrails and other things that you would be correct to call conspiracy theories.

In the greater world of this universe, 2004's US presidential election was won by John Kerry. The Democrats managed to take Ohio and with it the Republicans' control of the White House. Kerry went on to be re-elected in 2008 in a race against Mitt Romney and his running mate PepsiCo Inc. 2012 saw Hillary Clinton lose out narrowly to Rudy Giuliani, who won his party's nomination by spending 2011 at the site of One World Trade Centre reciting the Pledge of Allegiance fourteen hours a day, every day. Giuliani is currently seeking re-election against potential democratic candidates Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump.

Social media platform Twitter never gained the momentum that it has in our universe. A similar position of ubiquity instead fell to Google Buzz. Google quietly purchased Twitter in early 2012 and merged their staff into its Buzz division.

The Phoebe Universe

Not many people here would have expected a spinoff of Friends to be set in the year 3417 and the same can be said for the inhabitants of the Phoebe universe. The pilot begins with Phoebe waking up aboard an abandoned space station with no recollection of how she got there or where her husband Mike is (early contract negotiations with Paul Rudd broke down). She encounters similarly lost people from different eras of Earth's history. They band together to survive, discover the secrets of the space station and try to find a way home.

In early 2004 Lloyd Braun and JJ Abrams filmed a pilot for a show called Lost, which at $15 million was the most expensive pilot ever produced. They were immediately fired by ABC and the pilot was discarded. Abrams reworked the concept to loosely fit into the Friends universe, placing Phoebe in the role of Jack Shephard. At the request of NBC they changed the magic island to a magic space station. This meant they could save a fortune by filming on a sound stage in Burbank instead of on location in Hawaii.

The show proved to be as much a hit as Lost was here, if not more so. After eight seasons the final episode of Phoebe surpassed the ratings of the series finale of M*A*S*H and has since become the benchmark for how a television show should wrap itself up. Lisa Kudrow managed to pick up five consecutive Emmys for the show, though she was beaten in her final year by Anna Gunn. The show also helped to launch the movie career of cast member Alan Tudyk, who soon became a frequent collaborator with David O Russell.

Abrams stayed on as show runner of Phoebe for all eight seasons, leaving him unavailable to work on movies. David Fincher was hired by Paramount to direct their reboot of Star Trek. During casting Fincher threatened to walk if the studio didn't at least consider using the original cast. At the time DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and Walter Koenig were all deceased, but this did not deter Fincher.

Eventually he conceded that a new cast was necessary, but nine weeks into shooting the studio discovered that he had been secretly filming at night with the original cast. He had also hired Andy Serkis to play the roles of Bones, Scotty and Chekov using motion capture technology. Paramount removed Fincher from the project and shut it down. The footage is currently being assembled into a special feature for the HD-DVD boxset being released for the franchise's 50th anniversary.

In the Phoebe universe, George Lucas retained his ownership of the Star Wars franchise. In 2013 he announced that he was making his long planned sequel trilogy. Summer 2015 saw the release of Episode VII: Wrath of the Empire. It is as bad as you think it is. It starred Nathan Fillion as Han Solo's long lost brother Dax Rigby. However, it grossed over $3 billion worldwide.

A notable event in this universe was the Information Hiccup (as it came to be known on Google Buzz), in which the entire internet went down for three weeks in 2011. The cause was a mysterious worldwide cluster of deaths of computer system administrators. Without their ongoing maintenance of vital parts of the internet's infrastructure the entire system crashed. A two year inquiry discovered that the cause of these men's deaths was a batch of Mountain Dew Code Red found to have 500 times the usual amount of sodium benzoate. In high enough quantities this particular batch of soda was lethal. The subsequent lawsuits put PepsiCo, and its subsidiary Iceland, out of business, thus ending the cola wars once and for all.

The Rachel Universe

Rachel was intended to be a sitcom focussing on Rachel Green, her family and her work life. Its production was mired with problems. David Schwimmer was set to join the main cast as Ross Geller. Test audiences weren't happy with this, though were split over the reason. Some wondered why the show was called Rachel if Ross was also in it. Others wondered why they were allowing David Schwimmer back onto television at all. The network decided to recast Ross and hired Bradley Cooper. Schwimmer brought NBC to court before the new pilot could finish filming.

While legal proceedings were on-going NBC wanted to keep Jennifer Aniston under contract. She became the host of their new game show Deal or No Deal in the fall of 2005. By 2007, with no end in sight of the litigation, NBC sold the rights to produce a Friends spinoff to Fox. Aniston hosted the game show for four seasons before starring in the 2009 film Deal or No Deal. The romantic comedy had no connection to the game show aside from Aniston.

Fox initially intended to attempt the original Rachel idea, but threats from David Schwimmer's legal team put an end to that. They shopped around for pilot scripts for the spinoff. JJ Abrams was already under contract with Warner Bros to produce a show for Fox and decided to merge the Friends spinoff into his existing idea for a science fiction show called Fringe. The Rachel character was dropped in an early draft of the new pilot.

Before production of the pilot could begin Abrams left the show to direct 2009's Star Trek reboot. Luckily Fox was able to secure Joss Whedon to take the reigns. Whedon retooled the show, focusing heavily on the ensemble cast and science fiction aspects of the original script. Following two more major rewrites Firefly was back on the air. After a single season it was once again cancelled. The network was happy with the ratings, while fans and critics agreed that the show was the best they could hope for. However Whedon disappeared in the Vanishing, along with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.

In early 2005 Elon Musk announced a new venture named Rosen. His plan was to revolutionise the transport industry and the world itself with the invention of instantaneous matter transportation. Rosen published a paper showing the science behind the idea to be both feasible and attainable. In a show of conviction, Musk shut down Tesla Motors. The roadmap was to render the shipping industry obsolete by 2015 and for every home to have their own transporter by 2022.

In 2010 Musk was to launch the Rosen Cargo Transporter. As a publicity stunt he arranged to have the Statue of Liberty transported from New York to Paris and back again in under one minute. Musk took time off set from his leading role in Marvel's Iron Man Nova. He was master of ceremonies of the massive event broadcast to over three billion people and attended by President Gore and Poet Laureate Anthony Bourdain.

What followed came to be known as the Vanishing. The statue never arrived in Paris, nor did it return to New York. Musk awkwardly tried to assure his massive audience that everything was okay, then disappeared himself. Over the following eighty six minutes approximately 150 million people worldwide vanished. None have been seen since.

Grief turned to civil unrest in many parts of the world. Rosen facilities were attacked by angry mobs determined to destroy the technology. A resentment of technology in general began to grow. Militias advocating the destruction of advanced technology and scientific knowledge rose around the world. They fell just as quickly to their governments' advanced technology and scientific knowledge.

The Ross Universe

Ross is the worst. It should come as no surprise that the same holds true for the Ross universe. The production of the show was, as best anybody can tell, incident-free. It was a mockumentary in which a crew were following Ross Geller after he was hired as a technical consultant for Jurassic Park 4. The heavy focus on the workplace allowed the show to work around Jennifer Aniston's lack of availability and general unwillingness to work on a show named Ross.

In the run up to its premiere the marketing surrounding the show leaned heavily on the Jurassic Park element. It wasn't actually clear to the public that there was no sequel. To remedy this NBC screened a short segment at the beginning of the first episode of Ross. David Schwimmer explained to audiences that the film was fictional, existing only in the universe of his television show.

Outrage soon erupted. Reviews of the show didn't even mention the content of the episode, focussing instead on what was generally described as fraud on NBC's part. A boycott of the network and its sister film studio Universal gained momentum rapidly. A congressional hearing was held to determine why NBC hoodwinked the nation and what should be done to stop it in future.

Lawmakers reacted and soon the first amendment of the US constitution itself was under review. The 2005 outbreak of Sars in DC had allowed President John Edwards to stack the Supreme Court with pro-dinosaur judges. The precedent set by United States v. NBC Universal PepsiCo had a massive chilling effect on free speech in the US. Before it could gain a proper user base Google Buzz was shut down by a federal court order.

A political climate similar to the McCarthyism of the 1950s was ushered in. Celebrities tried to use their star power to fight for free expression. Unfortunately the media was fully on-board with the government. Not a single outlet reported the murder of Jake Johnson at the hands of the National Guard during a free speech rally or the CIA's assassination of Bradley Cooper. The 2008 financial crisis went unreported within the US, which only seemed to intensify the economic effects globally.

Most Americans were unaware that Iceland was forced to sink itself into the Atlantic to avoid repaying its creditors. They were similarly unaware when a second Statue of Liberty appeared without warning in the middle of the Champ de Mars in Paris. Eighty six minutes later they were aware that something had happened.

In 2010, 150 million people, mostly duplicates of existing people, popped into existence from nowhere. An already unstable world collapsed. Over the next few years borders shifted as power changed hands and new ideologies arose. Before civilisation could collapse entirely a pair of heroes ascended to power in the east of Canada: Nathan Fillion and his double from the Rachel universe, who changed his name to Dax Rigby for the sake of simplicity. They ended the petty squabbles and land disputes with a simple promise: Jurassic Park 4.

The Fillions began working with the Elon Musk from the Rachel universe. His plan was to create a new version of the Rosen transporter. With it he could deliberately breach other universes. Those who wanted to go home could return to the Rachel universe. But what people wanted more than anything was the sequel that David Schwimmer had promised them all those years ago. The Fillions and Musk promised that they would scour the multiverse looking for a reality with a fourth Jurassic Park movie.

Ladies and gentlemen, they are coming for us.

Their Musk is close, I know it. We must prepare ourselves for this inevitable invasion. Who knows how these otherworlders will react if they see Jurassic World and realise that it's only enjoyable at a meta level? I don't know what we can do to stop it. I suspect that Jake Johnson might though. So please, if you can, put me in touch with Jake Johnson.