Writer David Crane has revealed how things almost turned out very differently for Phoebe in the series finale of Friends. The quirky character ended up marrying Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd,) but Crane said that they almost set her up with an ex-boyfriend. If things had gone a little differently, she might have married The Scientist Guy, David (Hank Azaria).
Phoebe Buffay was a tough character to wrap up on Friends, given her free-spirited nature. Given everything she had been through, the character — played by Lisa Kudrow — needed a happy ending, but some fans hoped she would get that with David instead of Mike. In a new interview with Radio Times, series co-creator Crane said that the writers considered that as well.
"There was definitely a possibility of that," he admitted. "I mean, we didn't definitively know [who she'd end up with]. They're both amazing actors. I mean, both Paul and Hank are fantastic, and fantastic with her. We sort of went back and forth."
David was introduced in the very first season of Friends, in one of the first storylines that centered entirely around Phoebe. He was called "The Scientist Guy," and made a perfect foil to Phoebe's antics. Sadly, shortly after they met, he got a once-in-a-lifetime academic grant to do research in Minsk, Russia and had to go.
In total, David appeared in only five episodes of Friends, yet he was still a fan-favorite. Meanwhile, when Phoebe began getting serious with Mike, David re-emerged as a competitor. In Season 10 two-parter, "The One in Barbados," David flew to the islands to propose to Phoebe, yet she chose Mike instead.
"I don’t even remember all the pieces that led to where we landed, but yeah, it could have gone the other way," Crane said of this dramatic episode. "Phoebe would have been great with either one."
Putting Phoebe with David in the end would have been a neat bow on the end of Friends' decade-long story, although it might arguably have been unrealistically perfect. In the end, Mike made a perfect partner for Phoebe, and their dynamic had a few seasons to get fleshed out. This also helped launch Rudd to the heights of fame he is at now.
When they were making Friends, Crane, his co-creator Marta Fauffman and the other writers could not have known how popular the show would be decades later. The show is one of the most popular sitcoms for binge-watching and re-watching in the age of streaming, and Netflix paid an exorbitant licensing fee to keep in in their catalog for 2019.