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Friends Writer Exposes Stars' Aggressive Stance Over Script Lines

With the Writers Guild of America on strike, the general public has had an opportunity to learn that working in Hollywood isn't always glamorous. Many writers have been outspoken about how it's nearly impossible to earn a middle-class living as a writer (even on a hit show) anymore. Sparse residuals and inequitable treatment are typical talking points, making the upcoming memoir from Patty Lin — "End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood" — incredibly appropriate to come out now.

Lin was a professional TV writer for many years, with credits including "Freaks and Geeks," "Friends," "Desperate Housewives," and "Breaking Bad." However, she left the industry in 2008, and now, she's speaking about her time working in contentious environments, especially when it came to "Friends." Her book comes out on August 29 (with pre-orders available now), but an excerpt was published by Time that details her time with "Friends."

She faced many hurdles coming into the sitcom. While she was part of the first and only season of "Freaks and Geeks," she entered "Friends" when it was further along in its run. From being the only minority in the writers' room to working 12-hour days, there was much to disillusion her in this line of work, but she also faced pushback from the actors. As she states, "They all knew how to get a laugh, but if they didn't like a joke, they seemed to deliberately tank it, knowing we'd rewrite it. Dozens of good jokes would get thrown out just because one of them had mumbled the line through a mouthful of bacon. David [Crane] and Marta [Kauffman] never said, 'This joke is funny. The actor just needs to sell it.'" According to Lin, the actors weren't shy about voicing their (usually negative) opinions, and overall, they seemed over working on a show when they wanted to work on other projects. 

Patty Lin also suffered from imposter syndrome while working on Friends

Working on a sitcom wasn't a barrel of laughs, as Patty Lin points out. While "Freaks and Geeks" had comedic elements, it was more of a drama, but even though "Friends" was a straight-up sitcom, Lin explains how the actors could be the harshest critics around. She writes how they saw themselves as "guardians of their characters," and they provided numerous notes about how best to serve their visions. This could be helpful, but Lin explains that more times than not, it would turn aggressive, resulting in the writing staff needing to devise dozens of alternate jokes for a given scene so that they could be ready to pitch incessantly until the actors were happy with something. 

She explained how a high point of her "Friends" experience came when she was an extra in an episode directed by David Schwimmer, who instructed, "Patty, can you scooch closer to the door?" She writes that the fact he knew her name rather than saying "Hey, you" made her feel like she was truly part of the show. But she continues how she couldn't shake the imposter syndrome she had throughout the show. She admits this was partly due to her being a drama writer working for a comedy, but she elaborates, "Imposter syndrome, I later learned, is a common experience for racial minorities who work in fields where they lack representation."

Lin's time on "Friends was limited to one season. She wasn't asked to return, and given her experience, part of her was fine with that decision. She went on to write for other shows before leaving TV writing behind. But her time working on "Friends" will surely be just one tale from a book filled with eye-opening anecdotes that anyone who wants a better glance into this world should read.