Aisha Tyler: Tsuni/Getty Images; Gabrielle Union: Jim Spellman/
Lynette Rice
March 07, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Don’t accuse the ”Friends” gang of not recycling. An April 24 story arc, in which an attractive African-American woman (former ”Talk Soup” host Aisha Tyler) becomes involved in a love triangle with Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer), seems strangely similar to a 2001 episode in which an attractive African-American neighbor (Gabrielle Union) became involved in a love triangle with — you guessed it! — Joey and Ross. The déjà vu wouldn’t be that notable except that ”Friends”’ depiction of New York City is notoriously lily-white.

But exec producer David Crane insists the producers didn’t set out to cast a black actress — they just ”loved” Tyler. ”The other story line [with Union] was quick and funny, where the two guys didn’t realize they were dating the same girl,” says Crane. ”Charlie Wheeler [Tyler] is a brilliant paleontologist who should be dating someone like Ross, but hooks up with Joey first. She really only dated paleontologists, but now she is with a soap star.” How about at least changing the triangle? Newly single Phoebe could use some lovin’.

(Additional reporting by William Keck and Dan Snierson)

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