AN EPIC TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
DESPITE much hype around Warner Bros’ Friends: The Reunion, it wasn’t enough to spur me on to check it out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the sitcom.
But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit through two hours of the cast going down memory lane 17 years later. But my curiosity saw me cave in, eventually. And I’m glad I did.
I found the reunion a heady mix of charming and sentimental.
The special opened with a throwback moment of the closing scene of the final episode. Next, the cast – David Schwimmer (Ross Geller), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), Courteney Cox (Monica Geller) and Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing) – walked through the Friends set.
Each of them recalled fond memories. LeBlanc chuckled about erasing notes that Cox had written on the kitchen table before a big scene. And she shared that the cookie jar from Monica’s kitchen is now in Kudrow’s house. And Perry and LeBlanc wasted little time in settling into the Barca Lounger from Joey and Chandler’s bachelor pad.
Later on, they joined James Corden and the live studio audience.
Of course, it was only fitting that the chat with the cast was in front of that infamous water fountain where the title sequence was shot, with The Rembrandt’s I’ll Be There for You as the title score.
Aside from input from David Bright (executive producer/ director), co-creators and producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman unpacked the casting process. Crane noted that Schwimmer had quit television when they wanted to cast him for Ross.
Interestingly, Kudrow was pitched to them off her performance in Mad About You. Kauffman added: “She absolutely nailed the audition.”
LeBlanc was a struggling actor looking to land his big break.
Initially, they considered Cox for the part of Rachel but she resonated more with Monica. Perry was an up-and-coming actor who was locked down in another sitcom. Aniston found herself in a similar dilemma as Perry. She eventually begged the creators of the other show to release her from her contract as she loved being a part of the Friends cast.
The special included feedback from the show’s fans across the globe who revealed how the cast helped them during personal setbacks.
When a guest on set asked if there was anything they didn’t enjoy on the show, the cast agreed on it being Marcel the monkey. Marcel was a hoot on the show, but would miss the cues and they would have to reshoot several times.
The final straw for Schwimmer was the monkey being fed grubs that ended up on him. “It was time for Marcel to f*** off,” he said.
Celebrities who were former guests or fans of the show shared their favourite moments. David Beckham resonated with the Monica character. He said: “I’m most like Monica because I’m a clean freak.”
His favourite scene was Ross trying to get the gang ready for his event, where he was giving a big speech, and Joey and Chandler got into a petty fight over a couch chair. LeBlanc ended up injuring himself during that shoot.
Reese Witherspoon, who played Rachel’s sister, recalled her goosebump moment when Joey walked into the flat and delivered his famous line, “How you doing?” And Tom Selleck dropped by as the cast relived their popular quiz nights. The cast also revealed their favourite guest stars – Danny DeVito, Ben Stiller, Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, who was Schwimmer’s idol.
Of course, Phoebe’s Smelly Cat song had to be brought into the narrative with Lady Gaga joining the scene at the infamous Central Perk coffee shop.
Fans were probably most surprised by Schwimmer admitting to having a crush on Aniston. She jumped in to say it was reciprocal. He noted somewhat remorseful: “It was like two ships passing; with one always in a relationship.”
“We channelled all our admiration and love for each other through our characters,” she added.
A few bloopers were also aired as well as a mock fashion show of some of the character’s interesting outfits, modelled by Cara Delevingne, Cindy Crawford and Justin Bieber.
The journey of Friends might have ended but the deep bond lives on for the cast, creators and fans.
If you missed the “Friends: The Reunion” special on M-Net (DStv channel 101), the channel will repeat it: at 1.35pm on May 31, 10.05am on June 1, 4.10pm on June 5. It will be available on Showmax from Monday.