‘Friends: The Reunion’ is an epic trip down memory lane and triggers that warm and fuzzy feeling

Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc during the highly hyped ’Friends: The Reunion’ special. Picture: Terence Patrick/HBO Max
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This past week, there has been so much hype around Warner Bros’ “Friends: The Reunion”.

Honestly, it wasn’t enough to spur me on to check it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the sitcom. In fact, I’ve watched the reruns more times than I care to admit.

But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit through two hours of the cast going down memory lane 17 years later. As far as I was concerned, I would have been more eager to watch them if they were doing a reboot á la “Will & Grace”, “Dallas” or “Beverly Hills, 90210”.

Of course, my curiosity saw me cave in, eventually. And I’m glad that I did.

The “Friends” stars will inevitably still get questions about whether they’ll ever reunite on TV again, even though they have said the answer is no. Picture: Terence Patrick/HBO Max

I found the reunion a heady mix of charming and sentimental (for fans as well as the cast).

It was incredible to learn of the popularity of the sitcom and its global reach during its run from 1994 – 2004.

The special fittingly 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) – started arriving and walked through the “Friends” set.

Each of them recalled fond memories. LeBlanc chuckled about erasing notes that Cox had written on the kitchen table ahead of a big scene. Although she was moist-eyed, overcome with emotion, she laughed at his throwback memory.

She also remembered the cookie jar from Monica’s kitchen is now in Kudrow’s house.

And Perry and LeBlanc wasted little time in settling into the BarcaLounger from Joey and Chandler’s bachelor pad.

Later on, they joined James Corden and the live studio audience – joined by the show’s executive producer and director David Bright, co-creators and producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman – as well as Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles, who played Ross and Monica’s parents.

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 theme song, “I’ll Be There for You” as the title score.”

A scene from the special. Picture: Terence Patrick/HBO Max

Crane and Kauffman unpacked the casting process for a storyline that was personal.

Crane revealed: “We drew on friends and relatives for the show. It’s that one time in your life when your friends are your family.”

As such, casting was crucial for them.

Crane pointed out 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 nailed the audition.”

There were plenty of hugs during the Friends special. Picture: Terence Patrick/HBO Max

LeBlanc was a struggling actor looking to land his big break. He had gone in a couple of times.

Initially, they considered Cox for the part of Rachel but she resonated more with Monica. At the time, she was getting noticed in the industry and the creators were not keen on casting stars.

Perry was an up-and-coming actor who was locked down in another sitcom. But they knew he was perfect for Chandler.

Aniston found herself in a similar dilemma as Perry.

She admitted that she eventually went to the creators of the other show and begged them to release her from her contract as she loved being a part of the cast of “Friends”.

The special included feedback from fans across the globe. They couldn’t stop singing the praises of the show and revealed how the cast helped them during their various personal setbacks in life.

When a guest on set asked if there was anything they didn’t enjoy on the show, the cast was in agreement on it being Marcel the monkey.

While Marcel was a hoot on the show, the actors were put through their paces as it 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.

He laughed, “What inevitably began to happen, the monkey didn’t get it right. This kept happening…It was time for Marcel to f**k off.”

Celebrities who were former guests or fans of the show shared their favourite moments and weighed in on why the sitcom resonated with the viewers.

Kit Harrington felt that “the six actors are so good at physical comedy”.

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.

Behind the scenes, LeBlanc ended up injuring himself during that shoot.

Reese Witherspoon, who played Rachel’s sister, recalled her goosebump moment when Joey walked into the apartment and delivered his famous line, “How you doing?’

And Tom Selleck dropped by as the cast relived those popular quiz nights of theirs.

The cast also revealed their favourite guest stars, which included Danny DeVito, Ben Stiller, Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, who was Schwimmer’s idol.

He joked about being in a potato costume and not having many lines for that particular episode.

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.

I think fans were probably most surprised by Schwimmer admitted to having a major crush on Aniston and she jumped in to say it was reciprocal.

He pointed out, somewhat remorseful: “It was like two ships passing, one was always in a relationship.”

“We channelled all our admiration and love for each other through our characters,” she added.

Aside from the trips down memory lane with Maggie Wheeler also popping by to drop a quip about Janice (Chandler’s stalker ex), there were also a few bloopers that were aired as well as a mock fashion show of some of the character’s interesting outfits.

These were modelled by Cara Delevingne, Cindy Crawford and Justin Bieber.

In watching the special, one thing was apparent, and it was probably one of the biggest contributors to the success of the sitcom, there was such incredible camaraderie among the cast.

Watching them talk about the huddle before each episode as well as witnessing how their character’s personalities in many ways mirrors who they are – that bug incident with Kudrow and a LeBlanc cracking up about the bone guy reference – being cases in point.

To this day, it is clear that there is nothing but love among the six of them. And it is then that you realise why the creators cast them and why the “I’ll be there for You” soundtrack proved so propitious for the sitcom.

The journey of “Friends” might have ended but the deep bond lives on for the cast, creators and fans. Now that’s inspiring and uplifting and, let’s be honest, we could all do with a bit of that warm and fuzzy feeling right now!

If you missed Sunday’s episode of the “Friends: The Reunion” two-hour special on M-Net (DStv channel 101), the channel will be repeating it on the following days: 1.35pm on May 31, 10.05am on June 1, 410pm on June 5. It will also be available on Showmax from Monday.