The hugely popular US sitcom, which followed a group of New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties, ended in 2004 after ten seasons. Seeing all six principal cast members get back together to discuss their time on the show is genuinely rare. In recent years, columnists have generally been told not to request any Friends questions when interviewing the show’s former stars.
Responses to the special have been broadly positive so far, although many analysts noted some show work ingredients work better than others. Rolling Stone explained it as “an overproduced affair with too many guest stars and detours,” but appended: “When it lets the iconic gang of six just talk amongst themselves, it hits the nostalgic sweet spot.”
‘Everything seems smaller.’
One game includes Matt LeBlanc seeing if he can still identify Joey’s “identical hand twin.” The unique with David Schwimmer arriving at the Warner Bros studios to visit the reconstructed Friends sets, including the two main apartments and the coffee house, Central Perk. He is accompanied by the other cast members one by one, most of whom become emotional as they reunite. It isn’t long before they’re sharing memories. LeBlanc mentions Courteney Cox about scribbling her lines on the kitchen table alongside the fruit bowl.
Perry’s essential for laughs ‘wasn’t healthy.’
Perry apparently gets the least screen time of the primary six throughout the reunion. When the trailer was released, some fans showed concern about his appearance and speech (his previous struggles with addiction have been well-documented). But he does speak movingly about how deeply affected he was by some parts of the job, especially seeking validation from the show’s live audiences. The actor’s passion for audience approval has affected all of his work. When his play The End of Longing debuted in London in 2016, it passed through several re-writes during its run, with multiple new jokes added as the weeks went by. Audience members (including us) who witnessed the show numerous times were astonished to find brand fresh chunks of dialogue in following performances.
Warning: One scene is not for the squeamish
Matt LeBlanc held his arm in a sling for many weeks after the accident. Series three’s The One Where No-One’s Ready is a enthusiast favorite, and most will recall the storyline where Chandler and Joey are fighting over an armchair. At one point in the episode, they both dive for it simultaneously, with Joey ultimately making it there first after hurling himself over the furniture. LeBlanc has told this story before on Jimmy Kimmel, but in the reunion, we get to see the original footage – in which his arm seems separated from his body. The actor’s dislocated shoulder was written into following episodes, but the writers had Joey sustain the injury off-screen while jumping on his bed to justify why his arm was in a sling.
The cast has no recollection of some episodes.
James Corden interviews the cast in front of the legendary fountain from the opening credits. Matthew Perry has earlier said he doesn’t remember three whole years of his time on Friends – but it turns out he isn’t the only one. When Aniston takes up season five’s The One With The Ball, in which the group all get entangled in a game of catch for hours on end, Schwimmer declares: “I don’t remember that,” while looking genuinely perplexed.
There are some notable new outtakes.
Watch out for a simple Chandler dance in one of the new outtakes. Having seen countless Friends blooper-reels on YouTube over the years, we didn’t think there were any outtakes we hadn’t seen. But it turns out a couple in the vault are unleashed for the first time in the reunion. There’s a one really filthy unscripted joke we can’t return here, during a scene where Monica and Chandler are in bed. And another where Perry does a witty dance when he can’t retain his line, only for LeBlanc and Schwimmer to replicate the same dance behind him when he decides to do a re-take.
Fake Joey was almost Real Joey.
Matt LeBlanc almost dropped out on being cast as Joey. Creators Kauffman and Crane and director Kevin Bright give several behind-the-scenes stories. Friends scholars will have heard many of them before, like how Cox originally
auditioned for Rachel before being cast as Monica. But there are some new nuggets here too. Bright recalls the challenging audition process for casting Joey. That implies the other actor in the running was Louis Mandylor, who arrives in the season six episode as part of a plotline where Joey is trying to make money by playing he has an identical twin.
Friends of Friends show up throughout
Maggie Wheeler (Janice) is amongst the many guest stars sharing remembrances with the cast. James Corden asks the group who has the biggest and most distinctive laugh, at which point everyone looks towards Kudrow. James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, is the only guest who joins via Zoom. Was there anyone the cast didn’t like while working on the show? “The monkey,” LeBlanc and Schwimmer both reply immediately, referring to Ross’s series one partner, Marcel. “I’m an animal lover,” says Schwimmer, “but what necessarily began to happen was that [scenes] would get messed up as the monkey didn’t do its job right. So we’d have to re-set, we’d have to go again… this kept happening, over and over.”
The trivia quiz is back.
Schwimmer recreates his quiz from series four, where the boys and girls struggle to see who knows each other better. Schwimmer asks the female cast members to recognize a character of an audio clip taken from an old episode in one new round of questions. You’ve probably guessed that the correct answer is the ever-grumpy Mr. Heckles. Luckily, they do better on some of the other shots.
There’s no shortage of A-listers
Malala Yousafzai and David Beckham both reveal why they fell in love with the show. Some celebrities get heavily affected in the games and activities. We won’t spoil those here, but an extraordinary guest is duetting with Kudrow on Smelly Cat. Other stars appear momentarily to share the influence Friends had on their lives. In the meantime, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai reveals she has a soft spot for The One With The Routine, comic Mindy Kaling likes The One with All The Kissing, and actor Kit Harington especially admires the “pivot” series in season five – where Ross, Chandler, and Rachel are trying to take a couch up the stairs.
Friends: The Movie?
It isn’t easy for a series to keep razor-sharp writing, relatable characters, well-observed storylines, excellent on-screen chemistry, and high viewing figures for ten years. But Friends did it – and without ever jumping the shark (although it came pretty close in season nine, with a weak episode titled The One With The Sharks). Fans of the US sitcom often say, only half-jokingly, that every circumstance in life can be related to a Friends storyline. And while some segments of this reunion do taste a little padded out, finally, this is a classy and enjoyable distinctive that won’t deceive followers.
Many fans have been frantic for a scripted reunion for years – with the stars reprising their characters in a new series or film. But you can imagine how the cast responds to being invited by Corden whether they’ve thought it.