John Henton Once Shared Thoughts on 'Friends' Reportedly Being a Replica of 'Living Single'
John Henton opened up about the Warner Bros hit sitcom "Friends," whom he believes is a carbon copy of "Living Single."
In 1993, Fox aired a new sitcom, "Living Single." The innovative series focused on the lives of 6 singles living in a New York brownstone
Starring Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, T.C. Carson, Kim Fields, Mel Jackson, and John Henton. Henton has revealed his personal feelings about "Living Single," and another Warner Bros sitcom, "Friends."
The difference was that Warner Brother spent a lot more money promoting and marketing "Friends" than they ever did on "Living Single"
John Henton in an interview in celebration of "Living Single" 25th anniversary in 2018 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images
LIVING SINGLE AMONG FRIENDS
Actor John Henton, who went on to star in another hit show, "The Hughleys," claims that WB used the original concept of "Living Single," altering the story to a group of white single men and women to create "Friends"-- whereas the cast of the original series had been all African American.
WB's new series, "Friends," proved to be one of the most successful comedies of the 90s, and catapulted the core cast, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer into stardom.
Studio portrait of the cast of "Living Single": The cast of Living Single: Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, Erika Alexander and Kim Coles in the mid 90s | Source: Getty Images
In addition, "Friends" had a breathtaking list of guest actors which included Susan Sarandon, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Alec Baldwin, Julia Roberts, Danny DeVito, Reese Witherspoon, Bruce Willis, and Paul Rudd.
Promo photo of the cast of "Friends" Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer circa 1996 | Source: Getty Images
Tom Selleck, of "Magnum P.I." fame, who is now starring in "Blue Bloods," was a recurring guest as Courtney Cox's lover, and A-list movie star Brad Pitt, who was engaged to Jennifer Anniston, also did a spot on the sitcom.
David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, and Bruce Willis as Paul Stevens in a 2000 episode of "Friends" | Source: Getty Images
"LIVING SINGLE" CANCELED
"Living Single" ran from 1993 to 1998; and "Friends," which debuted in 1994, ran for an astonishing 10 seasons until 2004. Henton commented:
"They put the carbon copy of us ["Friends"] we up against each other."
Henton was referring to the unorthodox decision made by executives to chance "Living Single"'s spot from Sunday nights to Tuesdays, right before "Friends." Two series with the same promise, Henton pointed out, are always separated in the schedule.
Henton confessed that when "Friends" came out one year after "Living SIngle" debuted, that he was angered by what he saw as blatant plagiarism. He revealed:
"You're mad because you're not getting any credit. Nowadays people talk about what a great show that was, and it was, like, it was based on ours."
What particularly upsets Henton even today, is that the debt owed by "Friends" to the original "Living Single" concept was never acknowledged, by the producers, the writers, or the cast of "Friends." He said:
"It was too similar. It was 6 black folks in New York City, versus 6 white folks in New York City."
"Friends" was ironically touted as the most creative show in the world, Henton pointed out, but there was no reference to "Living Single," which had presented the exact same concept a year earlier. FOr Henton, "Living Single" will always be the original, and "Friends" the shamefaced copy.
Henton stated that the show's creator, Yvette Lee Bowser, had come up with the concept to explore the lives of singles, whereas most sitcoms up until then had focused on family life, in one form or another.
Even more innovative, Bowser introduced a cast of characters who were all successful, professional African Americans. The characters were not anyone's parents, giving sage advice or sterling examples.
These were singles dealing with the complexities of navigating the treacherous waters of sexuality and the pursuit of love in New York. Queen Latifah, who costarred with Henton has also revealed that she too believes "Friends" was a copy of "Living Single."
Henton finds consolation in the fact that "Living Single" has stood the test of time, and that the show's 5 seasons are on constant reruns. He said:
"We're doing great on sindication. We're getting our due, everyone knows what we did, and I'm proud of the work."
DAVID SCHWIMMER PUTS HIS FOOT IN IT
“There should be an all-Black "Friends" or an all-Asian "Friends."”
David Schwimmer at the Build Series discussion of #ThatsHarassment campaign in 2018 in New York City | Source: Getty Images
One of the stars of "Living Single," Erika Alexander, clapped back at Schwimmer, asking him if he'd never heard of "Living Single," and pointing out that they had invented the template that made "Friends" a success a year earlier.
The difference was that Warner Brother spent a lot more money promoting and marketing "Friends" than they ever did on "Living Single".
The old cast of "Living Single" is now working on a reboot of their show, so we may still get to see what happened to the gang, over 25 years later.