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AP / Lisa Kudrow
© AP / Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow thanks 'Friends' for new series

By Jay Bobbin
Zap2it

Lisa Kudrow says if not for the growing pains "Friends" had, she might not have the determination to see her own projects through now.

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One of them -- the innovative comedy "Web Therapy," which she created and stars in as a therapist convinced that sessions only a few minutes long are best for her patients -- expands from a Webby Award-winning Internet show into a Showtime series Tuesday, July 19.

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Also an executive producer of NBC's celebrity-ancestry show  "Who Do You Think You Are?," slated to return at midseason, Kudrow believes lessons she learned during her Emmy-honored "Friends" run as Phoebe still serve her well.

"People talk about shows being the kind you haven't seen before, and 'Friends' was that type of show, too," Kudrow tells Zap2it. "I remember the first season, everybody was nervous about the pilot, even the network: 'Everyone in it is in their 20s. No one's going to watch this.' There really hadn't been a show about people in that age group before, and the thought was, 'What's at stake for them? Everything is ahead of them.'"

That led to a flurry of ideas for revising the premise, Kudrow recalls. "They said, 'Maybe we should get a guy in who runs the coffeehouse, so they have him to talk to. Or maybe a policeman who's on their beat ... someone!' No one had seen people just sitting on a couch talking, so it was like, 'What is this?' I think what it did was open the door for other people to explore that type of show."

To that end, Kudrow doesn't think current series such as CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" and ABC's "Happy Endings" necessarily are trying to be "Friends" variations. "One thing I learned from 'Friends' is that ultimately, it's going to come down to compelling stories that are cast well. We were kind of under the radar anyway. Once we got on the radar, it was like, 'Ooh. So now, what do we do to make sure people watch?'"

Kudrow adds that Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the creators of "Friends," "were pretty certain about what they were doing, and I learned a lot from them. You just deal with the task at hand. If it's writing, write it the best you can; if you're acting, do that the best you can. And then, you'll see."