Many consider Friends as one of the greatest sitcoms ever made, deservingly so. The cast became instantaneously famous with the show’s success. Now, HBO Max is paying tribute to the 10-year run with a reunion decades in the making. Friends: The Reunion is a combination of a talk show, nostalgia, and table reads. This makes the special satisfying to the biggest fan and entertaining for even the most casual Friends watcher.
Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer gathered in the original sets to reflect on what made the show unique. Some of the most emotional moments of the special came from the cast sitting together and talking without an audience. This cast knows the rarity of finding a family on a Hollywood set. The theme song of the series, “I’ll Be There For You” now defines their real-life relationships as much as their on-screen counterparts.
Getting the Band Back Together
The six original cast members have not reunited in a public fashion in years. The internet seems to rejoice when a small portion of the group gets together for dinner shared through an Instagram post. So, a purposeful nostalgia-fest focusing on the show’s history and impact fits what fans wanted for so long – just short of getting new episodes. The special itself cut back and forth between the cast in different settings strung together through themes and memories from the beginning of the series to the end. This approach allowed the special to follow the hype of the early years with a real emotional sentiment about the ending.
James Corden hosted the talk show portion of the show in front of a masked live audience and the iconic fountain. Corden’s genuine fandom and excitement didn’t feel overplayed, but remained in tone with the cast. Recurring cast members and celebrities joined the main cast in reminiscing. Lady Gaga put on her best Phoebe to sing “Smelly Cat” in a whole new way. Tom Selleck, who played Monica’s older boyfriend, Richard, joined the cast during a trivia game while Maggie Wheeler, who played Janice, joined the cast on the couch with Corden.
Funny is Funny
For every emotional tear shed by the cast, there were twice as many laughs. This show was seriously funny, this cast is seriously funny. At one point the cast rewatched bloopers that shared the fun and creative freedom the cast enjoyed for ten years. A less discussed blooper moment comes from Matt LeBlanc. He recounts the time he dislocated his arm during a take that delayed production. The cast rewatches the excruciating moment that became a defining moment for the group. They skipped a group huddle that night and it ended in injury, so they grouped together as a team every night after.
A highlight of the special happens when the cast reads through iconic scenes. Lisa Kudrow gives an amazing reenactment of “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer play out the final scene of season one featuring Rachel and Ross’ first kiss. The duo commits to reading the fight scene, which is intercut with the original scene. The brilliance of the scene really shows what made this series special: heart. This wasn’t just a show about “nothing” like Seinfeld, but a show about people trying really hard to find themselves which only comes when they find each other.
The cast and creators did make it clear they don’t want more episodes or a movie to come from their show. No spinoffs, no reboots. Lisa Kudrow explained the series ended with happy endings, so to untangle quality conclusions for the characters in order to introduce new drama will only damage the legacy of the series. Courtney Cox also shared that there will never be another reunion. She may be right. Friends: The Reunion marks the one and only time the cast can get together on this scale. Sitcoms no longer create the biggest buzz or gain the biggest followings. CBS sitcom giant, The Big Bang Theory, proved to be the next Friends running for 12 seasons but never reached the global phenomenon status of Friends.
There may never be another show that matches the scale of this classic sitcom. Moreover, the classic sitcom format is no longer in fashion. Sitcoms became a staple of the TV landscape for decades. In the 21st Century however cultural cynism overtakes most audiences’ ability to accept the ridiculousness of the sitcom. In trade, audiences gravitate towards single-camera comedy that feels more real that more gracefully moves from comedy to drama when necessary. That said, this particular show proves invincible as the way to break the cynism, find joy, and connect. Since the show focused on the time in your life when your friends become your family, it is clear now the world needed this family of friends more than anyone ever expected.
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