When we think of the epic romances of NBC's classic sitcom Friends, we think Ross and Rachel. We think Chandler and Monica. If it's an off day, we might even think Joey and Rachel. But what about that dynamic duo of the group who never hopped, skipped, and/or jumped into bed together? Why no romance for Joey and Phoebe?
Well, according to actor Matt LeBlanc in an interview with People, there almost was.
Towards the end we actually pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had been having casual sex the entire time. We'd go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognizes, there's Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together.
It would have explained everything.
Joey and Phoebe were always much more open to flings and casual sex than the other four. Joey and Phoebe never denied an attraction yet never made a move to pursue a relationship. Joey gave up meat for Phoebe when she was pregnant with her brother’s triplets, and she cheerfully accepted his proposal when he thought she was pregnant. Joey and Phoebe had the least melodramatic relationship of the entire group of friends.
And, as Joey himself said in the thirteenth episode of Season 4,
The rule is when two actors are actually doing it off-stage, all the sexual tension is gone. So long as it’s hot on-stage, you got nothing to worry about. It’s when the heat goes away, that’s when you’re in trouble.
It was in front of our faces the entire time.
Honestly, a decade of a secret Joey/Phoebe affair would have been an epic “Gotcha!” for the ages. Add in the fact that the visual gags would have been hilarious, and Friends could have changed everything in its final season had not the producers nixed LeBlanc’s idea. Retroactive continuity is a dangerous tool for shows late in their runs, but reshooting some of the most famous sequences with Joey and Phoebe stumbling out of closets with shirts unbuttoned and on backwards would have been hilarious.
Ross and Rachel drunkenly wandering out of a Vegas wedding chapel, taking Chandler and Monica so by surprise that they totally miss Joey and Phoebe making a surreptitious walk of shame out of dark corner. Joey's unforgettable "Look at me! I'm Chandler! Could I be wearing any more clothes?" would only be funnier with a wink from Phoebe to tip off viewers that she'd soon be peeling her secret commando lover free of his layers of neckties and sweater vests. Chandler and Monica waking up together for the first time on Ross's wedding day in London followed by a shot of Joey and Phoebe nakedly high-fiving next door would have been harmless addition. Phoebe dropping a "How you doin?" line on Joey as code to rendezvous beneath the Central Perk counter ASAP alone would be worth the retcon.
Overall, Friends is no worse for omitting LeBlanc's pitch for a decade of secret casual sex between Joey and Phoebe, and there's no saying if the twist would have been mishandled so much so as to ruin the final season for dedicated viewers. Either way, it sure is fun to think back on all of those times that Joey and Phoebe were mysteriously off-screen... and the shenanigans that they could have been getting up to.