Although Friends is widely-regarded as one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, a groundbreaking 1996 episode was banned upon its original broadcast. Titled “The One with the Lesbian Wedding,” the Season 2 episode centers on the marriage between Ross’ ex-wife Carol (Jane Sibbett) and her bride-to-be Susan (Jessica Hecht), and was one of the first mainstream depictions of same-sex marriage to be broadcast on U.S. television.
Airing almost two decades before the United States Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal in all 50 states, the episode was deemed controversial at the time and was banned from airing on some U.S. network affiliates.
Sibbett and Hecht (aka Carol and Susan) recalled the reaction to their characters’ lesbian wedding during a 2017 appearance on the UK daytime show Lorraine. “It was the first lesbian wedding to ever be shown on TV and they blocked it out in some affiliates. But it all worked out as we got so much press because they blocked it,” Sibbett explained. “We won awards for that. It was nothing to do with us but we won a GLAAD Award, so it was remarkable.”
Meanwhile, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman previously disclosed that NBC had anticipated a wave of backlash after the show’s initial broadcast. However, the episode received minimal viewer complaints and became a ratings success, attracting 31.6 million viewers.
“When we did the lesbian wedding episode of Friends, everybody was up in arms,” Kauffman told The Hollywood Reporter. “NBC put 104 operators on for fear of getting a million phone calls. They got two.”
“The One with the Lesbian Wedding” isn’t the only Friends episode to have been censored upon its original broadcast, and in 1998, the Season 4 episode “The One with the Free Porn” was restricted in the UK for an explicit reason.