17 years ago one of the greatest sitcoms ever left our screens after a ten-year run. Since its conclusion, the stars behind the phenomenon, Friends, had only all been together once. Now, after all this time, and thanks to digital streaming (or for me, some rather dodgy websites), the cast has returned to our screens once more, to look back over a TV show lauded across the world.
First comes Schwimmer, Kudrow follows, then Aniston, LeBlanc, Cox, and finally Perry, each, in turn, talking in the old set they used to grace week in week out, reminiscing about their time. As a diehard Friends fan, seeing these lifelong companions reunite in such a way did warm the heart. These are people who have clearly had an influence on each other’s lives, and to see them all gelling again on the screen was seamless. You could barely tell this was just their second reunion since the show finished.
The 6 stars bounced off each other with ease, just like during the show’s run. The way this reunion blended table reads with iconic scenes was brilliant. There is still so much of every character clearly in each member. If you closed your eyes, it was almost like listening to the originals.
As ever with these kinds of reunions, the audience is invited in for never-before-seen insights into the show. I confess that I have found an hour-long video of Friends bloopers on YouTube and you bet I watched it in one go. And despite having seen most of it before, there was still more unseen footage to be dug out. We had insights into the cast themselves too. Matthew Perry talked about his compulsive need to make audiences laugh, showing an unseen, but darker side to the stardom. Seeing Lady Gaga thank Lisa Kudrow for championing the slightly weirder personalities was also rather touching.
Sadly, this is the only time the celebrity appearances, of which there were many, hit the mark. Others included stars like David Beckham talking about which character they resonate with. The catwalk of iconic Friends outfits was a good idea, but seeing Justin Bieber or Cara Delevingne modelling did not bring anywhere near as much joy as Matt LeBlanc lunging in all of Chandler’s clothes. Each cameo seemed all too fleeting as well, serving only to push the reunion along. It appeared too much like trying to shoehorn unrelated people into the event for sheer star power. There were some, but too few, guest appearances from the show’s side characters, like Gunther (relegated to a zoom cameo). If only Paul Rudd had featured… who doesn’t want to see Bieber in a potato costume (right?).
And of course, the crown jewel of pointless celebrities was the host James Corden, another star with no tie to the cast. There was uproar in the Friends community online at his announcement as host of the reunion, and his obnoxiousness did shine through on some occasions. His question of ‘who had the loudest laugh’ really made me cringe. Fortunately, these weaker moments during the interviews were dispersed between scenes of more quality time with the cast.
The legacy of Friends rests in its reality; a show about a group of pals, inspired by the creators’ real-life experiences. And every friendship group can find similar roles too, there’s normally a lovably foolish Joey type, or a wackier free spirit à la Phoebe. This is, above all, the reason why the Reunion tended to hit the mark most when the cast was allowed to riff amongst themselves while reflecting. This was never going to be a ground-breaking TV spectacle, just a brief display of old friends reminiscing with fond memories. That is what friends do, after all.
At the end of the show, Corden asks the cast a question that has been burning on the minds of Friends fans for decades; will we get a movie or a reboot? And the answer is quite a firm no, as should be the case. Kudrow makes the point that these are the endings Kauffman, Bright, and Crane left the characters with for good reason. There is no sense in unravelling it all again. This is likely the best we Friends fans will get, and I’m perfectly happy with that. There is no need to keep dragging out bizarre content to stay relevant. What they have managed here is a heart-warming celebration of one of the great sitcoms. To name it in true Friends fashion, this was ‘the one where they go down memory lane’, but not much else.
Image: Wikimedia Commons