“Gunther”: The “Friends” Spinoff That Could Actually Work

Spinoffs are tough to pull off. Especially when you are trying to create a spinoff of a tremendously popular and successful show. There’s a lot of talk about the upcoming spinoff of The Office based on Dwight Schrute. The big question is whether or not the new show will have any chance of succeeding, especially considering how much The Office fallen off in popularity and quality in recent seasons.

But this got me to thinking about perhaps the most notable failed spinoff attempt of all time: Joey based off Matt Le Blanc’s character from Friends. I never saw a single episode of Joey and I don’t know a single person who did. The internet tells me it was extremely unfunny and I’ll go head and believe it, but even if it were hilarious it never would have stood a chance. We all decided it would be terrible before the first episode.

As Dave Griffiths wrote (in this article that was very randomly written about Joey on November of 2012, six years after it went off the air), Friends was a show about a close-knit group of friends, hence the title. The plot is literally “friends are friends with each other.” So to take one of those friends and remove him from the rest of his/her friends is probably a bad idea. People watched because of their chemistry together. That would be like ESPN thinking “Football ratings are great and fans really seem to love quarterbacks. So we have an idea: we air a segment where we put the quarterback on the field by himself and he can throw the ball or whatever.”

The point being that Joey was doomed from the start.

But that doesn’t mean that a spinoff of Friends couldn’t still exist. Here’s what I’m thinking: Gunther, the show. You guys remember Gunther, right? He ran the Central Perk and he was completely obsessed with Rachel.

Look, “haha” funny isn’t popular in television like it was in the nineties. Awkward humor is what’s in. And who is more awkward than Gunther? Most of the critically acclaimed sitcoms on now don’t even have laugh tracks like Friends did. The awkward silence is enough to que people in on when to laugh.

So I did some googling and realized that apparently I’m not the first person to come up with this idea. Obsessive Friends fanatics have been whispering about it for years. In fact, the actor who played Gunther, James Michael Taylor, was even asked about the idea as recently as last year. Here is what he had to say:

“You know what, I’ve been asked that before and I think Gunther probably could have had some interesting room for exploration because he was a mysterious character, no-one knew anything about him for ten years.

The Gunther Show. It could have been a sitcom. It could have been a thriller. I don’t know.”

Pipe down, Gunther, it would not have been a thriller. But that kind of pathetic self-denial and unrealistically high expectations for himself is just another example of the type of humor that would work on the show. A thriller…haha…get real, Gunther.

Since it turns out that this isn’t a totally original idea, I can’t just leave you with the proposal. I actually have to outline a few plans for the show.

Location: Seattle 

So in the mid-2000’s Gunther sold the the Central Perk and left New York City to get away from the memory of Rachel. Where did he go? The coffee capital of America: Seattle, Washington where he opens up a new cafe to grunge teenagers who are way cooler than him and all the while competing with Star Bucks.

Oh, and the name of the cafe? The Taste Needle.* Get it? Kind of like Central Perk is a play on Central Park, this is a play on the Space Needle. Yeah…you get it.

*I’m pretty proud of that name so if you think it’s stupid please don’t say so in the comments. Writers are more fragile than you think.

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