Length: 99 minutes
Friends first aired in 1994 and took its final bow in 2004. During those ten years it was an unprecedented ratings juggernaut and made stars of its main cast of David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry.
Its impact on mainstream popular culture is impossible to overstate: Friends was a legit phenomenon.
It’s strange then, in this era of weaponised nostalgia, that it’s taken so long for Friends: The Reunion to come about. Stranger still, it’s not a new scripted episode showing what the six besties have been doing for the last seventeen years but rather a movie-length walk down memory lane with the main cast, a bunch of famous guest stars and (somewhat inexplicably) James Corden hosting.
The first thing you should know: this special is for hardcore fans only. Unless you’ve seen the bulk of Friends’ 236 episodes at least once you’ll probably be either baffled or bored by the syrupy shenanigans on offer.
The main cast visit their old set, reminisce about their time together, and appear next to the iconic opening credits fountain answering questions from Corden and various audience members. It’s a loose format, but one that mostly works because of the cast’s obvious affection for one another.
For fans, this is a treat and it’s cute seeing how the actor’s personalities mirror aspects of their characters. Aniston and Cox are very emotional and caring. LeBlanc, now a chunky silver fox, is still a prankster and likes to gently mock his mates. Schwimmer fits naturally into a leadership role while Kudrow and Perry are the quirkiest of the bunch.
It’s actually Perry who looks a little the worse for wear, which raised a few eyebrows, but apparently this is the result of dental surgery and not the 51-year-old actor’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.
Included in the package are deep dives into the creation of the show from Marta Kauffman and David Crane, who talk about their dream of a sitcom about the lives of 20-somethings at “an age where your friends are your family”. It’s hard to imagine it, but in 1994 that was a pretty revolutionary idea.
That’s not to say every episode was a classic, mind you. And there’s a rather telling moment where an audience member asks the cast what they didn’t like about the show, and Schwimmer starts banging on about how much he hated working with Marcel the monkey.
To be fair, it sounds like Marcel was a bit of a bug-eating diva.
And, of course, there’s the moment where Schwimmer and Aniston reveal a very mutual crush they had in season one. They’re coy about the details, but it seems like the Ross and Rachel dynamic wasn’t just for the camera.
Friends: The Reunion is a mixed bag. For every quality comedy moment or heartfelt memory there’s an awkward pause or dud question. But you know, if you were with Friends, if it meant something to you, there’s much to celebrate here.
Everyone’s a little puffier, or botoxed, some of the episodes seem a little creaky by 2021 standards, but this was a fun show with a lot of heart and it’s nice to revisit some old Friends.
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