The well-known orange couch at Central Perk, the iconic fountain and the golden frame hung on the purple door. All of that brings back memories for the cast of Friends, an American television sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Lasting for as long as 10 seasons from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, the series revolved around six friends in their 20s and 30s who live in Manhattan, New York City. Throughout the series, fans got to know each of the characters of the show and grew up with them, which include Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston), Monica Geller (played by Courteney Cox), Phoebe Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow), Joey Tribbiani (played by Matt LeBlanc), Chandler Bings (played by Matthew Perry) and Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer). And finally, after the series officially ended, they are back! Since the finale, the cast have only been in a room together only once, until now. 17 years later, HBO presents everyone with Friends: The Reunion.
Hearing from them, they all felt emotional about meeting each other once again. It was like they travelled back to the golden ages when they acted in the set of Friends. Despite not having many chances to meet up, Kudrow explained that they still kept in touch after the show ended and believes that, because of their strong bond, each of them will still pick up their messages and be there for the other.
Friends made 236 episodes and aired in over 220 territories. They became TV no. 1 for 6 straight seasons, averaging 25 million viewers a week with 52 million having watched the finale. The show has been watched over a hundred billion times across all platforms. Tonight is the real celebration of that. With such a large and committed fan base, it comes as no surprise that the reunion episode broke viewing records in the UK when it aired on Sky One to 5.3 million people – second in viewership only to the final season of Game of Thrones.
Hearing from the creators of Friends, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, their vision for the show wasn’t just revolving around the main lead, but it was about showing the life of all 6 friends equally, just as one big family. They had originally based the show off of their own lives, at a time when their friends felt like family. They created the show to reflect relatable everyday life universal stories, in Kauffman’s words: “things we can all connect to – looking for love and looking for a job and finding your family”. It is one of the shows that many have found themselves binging as a result of the pandemic as they reminisce about normal life outside of lockdown.
The reunion was rumoured and anticipated for months ahead with the cast hinting at it on their social media while the show’s fans guessed and speculated. It was rescheduled twice due to coronavirus outbreaks until the final confirmation of its release on the 27th of May 2021. With so much anticipation, the expectations for the reunion rose and so did the pressure on the producers to deliver. Kauffman even worried that it may eventually result in disappointment, tainting the show’s current positive image.
“The show is doing just fine, people love it. [A reunion] could only disappoint. ‘The One Where Everyone’s Disappointed.’” – Marta Kauffman
The special was full of surprises. Tears were cried as the cast wandered through their old set and recreated a few iconic scenes from the series. They told stories of their time on set and spilled the tea on some behind-the-scenes romances that were going on during filming. A host of unexpected celebrities make an appearance – from Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga to David Beckham and even activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
An article from The Guardian put together some viewers’ reviews on the Friends reunion special from all over the world. Opinions on the show ranged from “TV Gold” to “banal and superficial”. Many seemed disappointed with the decision to have James Corden host the show.
According to an article in the Guardian, Freeman wrote that the reunion is just like getting back with an ex – a bad idea. As it predicates on the fan’s nostalgia, making fans desire to go back in time, as if these 20 years didn’t happen. The truth is, we can’t. So it’s time to grow up and let them go.
Some had hoped it would be a new script – an update on where the characters are now. However, overall, hardcore fans of the show were overjoyed and emotional seeing the cast back together on the show’s familiar set sharing laughs and memories.
Written by: Hiba, Maki
Edited by: Jamie