The couch made famous on hit TV series “Friends” is hitting the road on a world tour.
Thirty replicas of that burnt orange, comfy, coffeehouse couch where Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler and Joey shared laughter, tears and endless conversations for six seasons on the NBC sitcom, will be arriving in landmark sites across the globe including stops at Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park on Sept. 21 and the Willis Tower observation deck Sept. 20-22. And yes, you and your friends can share an Instagram moment on the classic three-seater.
From the Grand Canyon to the Empire State Building, from Stonehenge to the Eiffel Tower, fabric and waterproof versions of the sofa are being placed at key locations surrounding the Sept. 22 anniversary of the show’s premiere. (The stunt hearkens back to a similar effort by HBO, which hid six Iron Throne replicas around the world last March to promote that series’ final season.)
“If you had told me that we’re going to come up with a show that, 25 years later, one piece of furniture is so iconic you could put it in the Empire State Building and you’d know what it is, it’s beyond surreal,” says co-creator David Crane in an interview.
Where did the couch come from? Not a thrift store or swap meet, despite searching for the perfect boho piece by set decorator Greg Grande, who eventually found it combing through the basement storage area at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California. “Literally in the back corner, shoved under another piece, was this sofa with beautiful carved wood,” he recalls.
Grande thought it was perfect for Central Perk, for which he took design inspiration from the Insomnia Cafe in West Hollywood. But the first rehearsal for the show’s pilot episode drew criticism: “I remember explicitly, there were network and studio notes because there was a rip in the back of the sofa and it was a little tattered on the arms. I had to redo some of the fringe.” But director James Burrows went to bat for the Central Perk couch as “absolutely believable and real,” Grande says. “The compromise was for me to take a piece of tapestry throw” and cover the biggest rip.
After the series won a pickup and prepared to begin its historic 10-season, 236-episode run, Grande found the same fabric in Europe and reupholstered the sofa. Then he put a piece of plywood under the cushion to keep the actors from sinking into it too deeply.
Eventually, he had a second couch made; the first can still be seen on the Warner Bros. studio tour, as a cultural touchstone for both older and younger fans, who weren’t even born when the show premiered in 1994 but have binged every episode on Netflix. (It’s moving to the new HBO Max service next year).
What’s “amazing” to Crane is “that there are kids who are discovering the show and liking it, that it’s still somehow relevant. That’s the part that’s absolutely surreal.”
Here’s the list of tour stops for the couch:
- The Empire State Building (Observation Deck) – New York (Sept. 21–22)
- US Bank Tower (OUE Skyspace LA) – Los Angeles (Sept. 16–22)
- Maggie Daley Park – Chicago (Sept. 21)
- Willis Tower (Observation Deck) – Chicago (Sept. 20–22)
- Jackson Square – New Orleans (Sept. 19–22)
- Klyde Warren Park – Dallas (Sept. 13–29)
- Reunion Tower (Observation Deck) – Dallas (Sept. 16–30)
- The London Eye – London, UK (Sept. 22)
- Abbey Road – London, UK
- Ross Fountain/Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh, UK (Sept. 16)
- Cardiff Castle – Cardiff, UK (Sept. 19)
- Tower Bridge (Potters Field) – London, UK (Sept. 20)
- Jardin du Palais Royal – Paris, France (Sept. 12)
- Triton Fountain (Piazza Barberini) – Rome, Italy (Sept. 21–22)
- Lucca Comics & Games Fan Event – Lucca, Italy (Oct.30–Nov. 3)
- Royal Palace – Madrid, Spain (Oct.1–Nov.30)
- Berlin Sony Center – Berlin, Germany (Sept. 21–22)
- FACTS (Flanders Expo) – Ghent, Belgium (Oct. 19)
- The Burj Khalifa – Dubai, UAE (Sept. 16–Oct.16)
- Bondi Beach – Sydney, Australia (Aug. 28)
- Comic Con Africa – Johannesburg, South Africa (Sept. 21–24)
- Loft Ginza – Tokyo, Japan (Sept. 18–24)
Read more at usatoday.com.
Contributing: Miriam Di Nunzio, Sun-Times