Twenty-seven years ago, six actors piloted a TV show with a goal to portray your 20s — a time in life when friends are family.
Soon after it premiered in 1994, Friends became a global phenomenon, a top-rated comedy that averaged 25 million views per week.
Its lead actors were launched into super stardom, while their distinctive characters — Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross — became etched in pop culture history. The show wrapped in 2004 with 10 seasons under its belt.
After the initial launch date was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Friends: The Reunion became available to stream Thursday. The special brought Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer together again to the show’s original soundstage at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, California.
The reunion was filled with surprise celebrity guests, insider facts and answers to questions fans have been holding onto for years.
The cast wanted to be there
Of all the top moments from the special, nothing can beat the cast first seeing each other again as they explore the rebuilt sets.
Schwimmer is the first to enter the studio. He wanders through the reconstructed set, overwhelmed with nostalgia, gasping “wow” and “it’s beautiful.” He’s followed by each of the other cast members gliding in one at a time.
There are smiles, tears, the swapping of old anecdotes and break-the-ice pleasantries about how a few of them happen to smell just lovely. If you only have 10 minutes to watch, this is the part most worth it.
Little known facts
While the co-stars teamed up for a game of Friends trivia, other tidbits came to light throughout the reunion.
Including that the cast took sentimental keepsakes from the set. Kudrow claimed the original cookie jar, Aniston took a neon coffee mug and LeBlanc scooped up a ball from Joey and Chandler’s foosball table.
During a trivia contest in a Season 4 Friends episode, Rachel incorrectly guessed that Chandler worked as a “transponster.” Here, it’s confirmed that Chandler’s real job was never actually established.
Schwimmer admits that despite being an animal lover, he did not like working with Marcel the monkey on the show. He recalls Marcel perched on his shoulder while a trainer fed him live grubs, and the monkey in turn wiped his grub-covered hands “all over” him.
Perry confides in his former co-stars for the first time about how vulnerable he felt “every single night” when the pressure was on to generate laughs from the studio audience.
“I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh and it’s not healthy for sure,” he said. “I would sweat and just go into convulsions if I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get.”
As for watching their own show on TV over the years, most of the former cast mates said they had seen every episode, but both Kudrow and Perry admit there were entire seasons they missed.
Ross and Rachel’s relationship
Ross and Rachel’s chemistry wasn’t just on set. Schwimmer and Aniston admit that those feelings also continued off-camera, but they were both in relationships with other people at the time.
“I had a major crush on Jen,” said Schwimmer. To which Aniston replied, “It was reciprocal.”
Aniston recalls telling Schwimmer at the time that it would be a bummer if the first time they kissed was on national television. Sure enough, she said, the first time they kissed was “in that coffee shop.”
Friends had welcomed many famous faces to the show over the years, including Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Ben Stiller. So it’s apt that cameos were part of the reunion as well.
As Kudrow sings and strums a solo revival of Phoebe’s hit acoustic classic Smelly Cat on the Central Perk café set, Lady Gaga enters with her own guitar and joins in with a powerhouse version of the Friends jam, followed by support from a six-person gospel choir.
One segment pays homage to the fashion on Friends over the years and several famous models hit the runway, including Cara Delevingne in Rachel’s maid of honour dress, and later as the Holiday Armadillo, Cindy Crawford in Ross’s iconic leather pants, and Justin Bieber wearing Ross’s “Spudnik” costume.
Pre-taped interviews are peppered throughout the special, with celebrity appearances by Reese Witherspoon, Malala Yousafzai, BTS, David Beckham, Kit Harington and Mindy Kaling offering fond memories of the show.
We are also treated to brief hellos from some of the more minor Friends characters, like Larry Hankin who played neighbour Mr. Heckles, the barbershop quartet that Ross hired to surprise Rachel in a Season 3 episode, and Tom Selleck who portrayed Monica’s ex, eye doctor Richard Burke.
Friends: The Reunion is available to stream now on Crave in Canada.