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)