It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton is determined, at times desperate, to mobilise the youth vote in the upcoming US presidential election. She’s made a number of bids to get millennials to the polls, including a recent appearance on Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns. However, one particularly massive effort has slipped under the radar.
The Clinton campaign has digitally altered old episodes of Friends, inserting Hillary into the East Village of 1990s New York City.
They’ve spent millions of dollars doing this. They’ve been airing episodes in syndication in key battleground states for the past three months yet I cannot find a single piece written on the matter. There’s nothing on Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post or the notoriously anti-Friends Breitbart. ClickHole has something but as far as I can tell it’s just a coincidence.
Hillary has been inserted into most episodes of the show. Usually she can be seen standing or sitting in the background in Central Perk. She waves directly at the camera while a ticker crawls across the bottom of the screen prompting viewers to register to vote. It is very, very distracting.
Hillary’s appearances aren’t the only modifications they’ve made. The mugs in Central Perk are adorned with “I ? HC”. Chandler’s trademark sweater-vests are embroidered with the Clinton “H” logo. Phoebe’s quirky songs have been replaced with campaign jingles.
All establishing shots that originally featured the World Trade Center are gone. As a mark of respect they’ve been replaced with footage of Hillary reciting the national anthem intercut with shots of the modern-day New York skyline. This has significantly increased running times. Affiliate networks have been forced to cut key scenes to prevent episodes overrunning.
A few episodes have been altered substantially. New dialogue for the original characters was created using a combination of existing clips and soundalikes. In the case of Ross however, David Schwimmer was more than happy to reprise the role. “Overly enthusiastic” was the phrase one anonymous project member used.
The season one episode The One with George Stephanopoulos has an additional scene featuring the former press secretary to Bill Clinton. Stephanopoulos calls over to Monica and Rachel’s apartment looking for the pizza mistakenly delivered there. He confronts them about their voyeurism and asserts that Hillary Clinton takes privacy very seriously. He then makes a joke about email but nobody really knew what that was in 1994 so it doesn’t quite land.
Season two’s The One with Russ has an entirely new subplot added. After Joey is cast in Days of Our Lives the gang notices that contemporary presidential candidate Bob Dole has been superimposed into the soap opera using green screen technology. Focus groups suggested that millennials would appreciate it “going meta”. While the episode retains its title, the story about Ross’s doppleganger Russ is entirely removed. This was mysteriously the only demand David Schwimmer made when he agreed to record new dialogue. (He received no financial compensation.)
Season four has multiple episodes with new scenes. In them, Hillary repeatedly tries to convince Rachel to let her put Ross in front of a congressional committee. She can force him to testify as to whether or not they were in fact on a break.
The season two story arc in which Joey moves out is radically altered. Instead of Adam Goldberg’s erratic Eddie, Chandler’s new roommate is Bill Clinton. Sick of campaigning for re-election, Bill deceives his staff with a phoney diplomatic retreat to Camp David. Chandler is driven over the edge by Bill’s constant saxophone playing. Hillary has been covering Bill’s presidential duties and eventually shows up to drag her truant husband back to the campaign trail.
Friends is not the only New York sitcom the Clinton campaign digitally altered. They added footage of Donald Trump falling over to reruns of Mad About You and Caroline in the City. Rumour has it they’re sitting on a version of Home Alone 2 in which his original cameo is removed. Instead he replaces Tim Curry as the villainous concierge who is incapable of outsmarting a child. (Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence subs for Rob Schneider’s gormless bellhop.)
Back during the primaries the Sanders campaign caught wind of Hillary’s Friends plan. They worked on digitally inserting their candidate into Weekend at Bernie’s and The Bernie Mac Show, but couldn’t finish before his bid ended at the DNC. The Ted Cruz campaign quietly let go a staffer who suggested he should be inserted into David Fincher’s Zodiac.
There’s no word on whether these modified Friends episodes will ever be made available generally. There are a lot of YouTube videos claiming to be the “Hilla-remakes”, but none are legitimate. They’re usually just Drake lyrics or some guy’s impassioned defence of Batman v Superman.