License article

Friends reunion: Comic artist develops robot to generate new Friends episodes

London: With everyone waiting for the Friends reunion (which was widely reported but turns out to be not really be a Friends reunion), our computer overlords have taken it on themselves to write new scenes of the hit TV sitcom.

Dundee comic artist Andy Herd fed the scripts of every existing Friends episode into an artificial intelligence known as a "recurrent neural network".

Up Next

Saints comeback falls short in draw with GWS

Video duration

More Videos

Friends to reunite in 2016

NBC have announced that the cast of Friends will reunite on screen for a TV special to air in February, with the exception of Matthew Perry.

He then asked it to generate new scenes, based on the patterns it sensed in the old ones.

The results speak for themselves:

[scene: Monica and Rachel's, they're running outside.]

Monica: I'm ran off.


Rachel: I know.

Rachel: (To Monica) Wow, you still have to get married. I –duck to work!

Monica: Hey Ross, come here!

(they kiss)

Phoebe: No! I would like to propose to my kid?

(They all stand in bed, them is upset.]

All I'd have to do is push a button and BAM, top quality sitcom fodder ready to go.

Andy Herd

[Time lapse.]

Joey: Seriously give me a clown on the table that's all.

Monica: (whispering) She's in London.

Nevertheless, Herd wrote on Twitter that "I reckon I could tweak this a bit and sell it to a network".

"All I'd have to do is push a button and BAM, top quality sitcom fodder ready to go."

He said Friends was good material for machine learning, because the cast is fairly small and there were a lot of episodes to sample.

Herd told Fairfax he had been "reading about machine learning in my spare time. It's a really fascinating subject with all sorts of interesting possibilities, and I've always been interested in random and procedural generation".

He once created a 'random comic generator'. 

Then he came across an article on the "unreasonable effectiveness of recurrent neural networks" so he wrote a similar program and "chucked in all the Friends scripts".

"The program takes one letter at a time and predicts which letter is likely to follow, given what it has learned from the provided data," Herd explained. "There's a lot of complicated stuff going on under the hood that I barely understand, it's cool stuff.

"One day I hope to create an artificial intelligence that will basically think up good tweets and funny comics for me, so I can stop worrying that I'm not funny online."

We reckon it doesn't have quite the magic of the old Friends series, though it makes marginally more sense than the one where Emily went through with the wedding even though Ross said Rachel's name. Or the fact that they're all friends with Phoebe.