The finest part about the Friends Reunion is that at the end, you know that the actors who played Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey had — and probably still have — a chunk of them in them.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been watching them for almost three decades (the first episode aired in September 1994), but if Kudrow shouts, Aniston cries, or Schwimmer chuckles during a real-time dialogue, a flash of memory transfers you to an episode where you’ve seen that identical reaction.
And this is significant. The fact that some version of these iconic characters — whose storylines ended 17 years ago — still possesses these major celebrities is highly amusing in a time when we are decimated by the fear and paranoia of the global epidemic, where personal relationships and communities are broken every moment; it is peculiarly reassuring too.
This is maybe why the greatest part of the reunion is the entrances when the six enter Stage 24 on the Warner Bros. set one by one. As the now-A-listers gaze at the meticulously-recreated sets of the apartments, hallway, and Central Perk, a million memories flash through their heads as they recollect the time when they were young, penniless, and on the edge of defining the vibe of an entire period of pop-culture and television.
Personal reunions are also intriguing to observe, with each embrace or handshake revealing far more than they initially appear to. This is only the second time all six performers have been in the same room since the show ended, but Aniston, Cox, and Kudrow, unlike the three boys, seemed to be at ease with each other, reflecting how their off-screen friendships have evolved over time.
The actors conversing inside Monica and Rachel’s old apartment are interspersed with executive producers David Crane, Marta Kauffman, and Kevin Bright explaining how the Part talk show (James Corden hosts here with the “Friends fountain” in the background), part trip down memory lane, and part celebrity-fuelled tribute show was brought to life. The pitching process, the casting process, and the realization that their sitcom had become a global hit (“It’s about that moment in your life when your friends were your family,” was the first pitch).
Not all of these scenes are as well-rehearsed and polished as they appear, particularly Corden’s inquiries, which come out as too bland. Some of the appearances are amusing, such as Malala Yousafzai talking about staying up late with her closest friend to watch repeats, RM from BTS stating that he learned English via the program, or a surprise artist doing Smelly Cat with Lisa(Phoebe). Others, not so much, as seen by the highly anticipated celebrity fashion show, which featured vintage Friends outfits, turning out to be a bit of a flop.
When left alone, though, the pals quickly revert to their old selves, and it’s difficult to believe they’ve been gone for so long. Whether it’s taking part in a trivia challenge inspired by The One With the Embryos, reminiscing over the 2004 finale and farewells, or indulging in spontaneous script-reading sessions (look out for The One With the Embryos), there’s something for everyone. Schwimmer and Aniston take us back to the beginning of Ross and Rachel’s relationship, their connection and friendship are off the charts. It’s so organic, in fact, that it’s simple to see why the audience felt like they were one of them: the seventh buddy. Mike/Paul Rudd, you’ve done it again.
And then, for a brief while, the world as we know it appears to be a tad bit brighter.