Photo credit: Warner Media / HBO Max
Friends fans who had been hoping for a real reunion, with new episodes, as they did with Will & Grace a few years ago, will come back from a rude awakening in Friends: The Reunion. Rather, the one-off reunion can best be described as a talk show, with the annoying James Corden (host of The Late Late Show) behind the wheel. But that shouldn’t spoil the fun, because they’re all there: Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry.
Sentimental music plays at the start of the episode as the cast members step into the hangar where the well-known set has been reconstructed. Tissue boxes are ready, because actresses can’t keep it dry. But there is also right away, in the middle of the living room, a joke about how LeBlanc Cox forgave himself at the time by erasing his dialogue – written on a table – just before the first take. After this introduction, the six take their places on a bench near the famous fountain from the intro to the sitcom, where they are interviewed by Corden.
The impact of Friends as a cultural phenomenon resonates in almost every conversation. And thanks to this reunion, HBO Max seems to have another column of subscribers in the United States all at once. Friends are always a hot item, that’s clear. This is also highlighted by the creators, New Yorkers who at the time actually envisioned a caricature of their own life in the city with Friends; a chronicle of their inner circle. What you could also call a “white circle”. A critical point, of course, is that Friends, which aired from 1994 to 2004, gave the impression that the Big Apple was only home to whites at the time.
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So it’s ironic that fans of color, from India and Ghana, share their love for the TV series with the cast members in the submitted videos. Despite justified criticism at the time and in retrospect, Friends is also a universal phenomenon. Perhaps a good example of escape. Flights back to ’90s New York, endlessly staring at Ross and Rachel. This nostalgia is strongly present in the episode. It also contains many retrospectives, games are played and scenarios are read aloud. There are too many to mention, as are the many supporting actors in attendance, including of course Gunther (James Michael Tyler) and parents of Monica and Ross, played by Christina Pickles (86) and Elliott Gould (82).
In between, celebrities like David Beckham and Kit Harington share how they valued Friends back then and what’s so great about it. And Smelly Cat, the famous song by Phoebe, also comes on and is recited, along with none other than Lady Gaga. While Kudrow doesn’t seem to like it that much, it does feel a bit like a shallow hunk. Nevertheless, the creators of the meeting are doing everything they can to bring a great chapter in television history to a close once and for all. Perhaps an overrated chapter – Friends isn’t the best sitcom ever – but that will likely be a problem for the fans, for whom this episode was primarily directed.
Friends: Reunion, Friday May 28, 2021 at 8:30 p.m. on SBS6 op