The Friends Reunion crashed the internet waves and many hearts last night. Here is why the final episode will adequately reward anyone who goes in with the right expectations
No One Told Us Life Was Gonna Be This Way…..
There is something about the good old 90s that has us trapped or wrapped in a blanket of coziness and nostalgia. Who would have thought that the slumber fest that was the year 2020 would make way for roaring emotional waves in 2021. Just one day after the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death – with all its passion and pledges – we got smacked, yet again, in the head and the heart by a long overdue Friends reunion.
17 years in the making (the show ended in 2004), the Friend’s reunion couldn’t have aired at a better time. Originally slated for release on May 27, 2020 on HBO Max (the platform acquired all the 236 episodes of Friends for launch on the date) this ‘last unscripted episode’, titled “The One Where They Get Back Together”, was released last night exactly one year after and boy oh boy was the world ready to erupt in flames of joy and tears after a year and half of lost numbness.
The Museum Of Memories
All that the executive producers (the main cast and show’s co-creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, Kevin S. Bright) had to do was take us back to the places…where stuff happened…., and viewers like me were reaching for the tissue box already.
Yes, in the first 15 mins, as David Schwimmer first entered the re-created sets at Stage 24 ( known as the ‘The Friends Stage’) of the Warner Bros. Studios, Los Angeles, I began to get weepy. Soon, others followed, one by one, clearly in awe as if the door was a time travelling machine. They stepped onto the set once again for the last time and it was as if nothing had changed. Through them, we felt everything – in a matter of seconds.
Perhaps, Ben Winston (who directed the special) knew it. Just being there, in Monica’s apartment, in the Central Perk coffee shop, at the water fountain, transformed time from a straight line to a blurry spiral – perfectly capturing 10 years into a moment. It was cinematic; it was monomaniacal; it was transcendental.
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, clearly aged, peeked around the sets like children discovering new spaces. The reunion-esque humor had already begun when Matt commented how everything feels so small now. When Jennifer replied that yes, especially when they all haven’t really grown since, and Matt hinted at his big belly.
Had they started acting already?
For objects don’t just hold memories, they hold the essence of a lived life that makes them sacred. The episode was meant to evoke pure nostalgia, not woke conversations about the show’s many failings (too white, too straight, too thin etc etc).
Could It Beeee Any Better?
The show was sliced between the six friends randomly talking, reminiscing in Monica’s apartment and an interview session in front of a live audience hosted by James Cordon (a spirited puppy masquerading as human). For me, the unrehearsed, freestyle living room conversations were the best bit. The cast talked about everything from first impressions to specific episodes and moments.
In between, you had major guest stars from all 10 seasons of Friends (Janice stealing the show obviously). The other ‘skits’ reminded me of how we used to plan birthday parties as kids. How we came up with games, quizzes, segments and even a fashion show to pass the time. Well, that’s exactly what the Friends reunion did. And all the participants were as excited as kids in those parties. There was a table-read of the most hilarious scenes of the show, the all-too-famous apartment quiz and never-seen-before outtakes.
The ‘star’ fans of the show too had the same diversity. What else could connect David Beckham and Malala Yousafzai, but Friends. Lady Gaga and Lisa Kudrow crooning to ‘Smelly Cat’ was the duet no one could possibly have imagined. The creators telling their stories gave this episode a documentary style. I loved the part where we got to know how each of the Friends landed the part that would define them for the rest of their lives.
The Timelessness Of Friends…
The show first premiered in 1994, and since then, has never stopped running. After each decade, a new generation discovers Friends, and falls for – what I call – the ‘Everythingship’ of it. The word, in a romantic sense, means: ‘a relationship but more….’.
As the six talked about what they have gone through together, the rush of sudden fame and the disillusionment that accompanies it, and how it, to this day, shapes their ‘friendship’, I couldn’t help but wonder how distantly close they all have come to be since the show ended 17 years ago.
Their arrangement has found a language, a plan of sustained closeness. The phenomenon of Friends transcended the show and became its own entity. It has reframed their vocabulary of togetherness, forever binding them as if they were soldiers in the same battalion, once upon a time….and sole survivors of it.
Perhaps it’s some quirk of fate that Friends ended right before social media changed the way we think of relationships.
Now we can hide behind pixelated words; physical attraction is routinely substituted with digital affection. We tend to write and read and imagine before we touch and kiss and realize. It is no wonder then, that we and generations to come would continue to find refuge in the realness of Friends. After all, that’s what the show was ever about.
It will be there for you.