F.R.I.E.N.D.S till the end

Mohammed Rayaan | Updated on May 28, 2021

Long lost: The reunion also talked about the cultural impact it made on its legion of viewers   -  PICTURE COURTESY: HBO MAX

With laughter, tears and nostalgia, ‘Friends: The Reunion’ works as a balm in these pandemic-ravaged times

The world saw Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Ross Geller, Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani together for the last time on their TV screens in 2004. The six — friends in Friends — are now taking a trip down heart-warming memory lane. And viewers are reaching for their tissues.

Friends: The Reunion aka The One Where They Get Back Together, now streaming in India on Zee5, is a fan-service that’s filled with laughter, tears and nostalgia, serving as a soothing balm in these pandemic-ravaged times. On the other hand, it is also a reminder of how viewers have aged since the curtain came down on the American sitcom.

For those who came in late, Friends was the story of six young friends living in New York. “It’s about that time in your life when your friends are your family,” said co-creator David Crane about the iconic show.

The104-minute long unscripted show had the six actors — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer — in familiar sets. They performed some of the classic scenes from the hugely popular show which was telecast from September 1994 for 10 years. They spoke of the good ol’ days with host James Corden, and shared a rich load of trivia. In short, the actors came, talked, cried, laughed – and, of course, conquered our hearts.

But the actual stars of the reunion, at least for me, are the creators of the show, Marta Kauffman, Crane and Kevin S Bright, who spoke — from their homes — about how an initial spark led to a long and enduring journey.

The show jumped back and forth between interviews: We saw the actors observing the sets one by one, thinking out loud how small everything looked after all these years. They sat in front of the iconic fountain that was almost a character in Friends or perched on a sofa in their apartment, as the hit song from the series I'll Be There for You by the Rembrandts played in the background.

Corden led the interview in his usual cheerful way, surrounded by a live audience with masks and in a social distanced arrangement.

Watching the format of this documentary made me realise that the creators were smart not to bring forth an “actual” episode, because it would have been difficult to meet every fan’s expectations. As the show runners recalled in an interview, they felt there was no need to bring out a story as all the characters had their respective closure in the finale ‘The Last One’, telecast on May 6, 2004.

As the stars shared fun tidbits, they constantly reminded us about the show’s winning factor: The fact that the actors seemingly loved and admired each other and had become more than just friends.

“We’re family,” Cox (Monica) told Corden. “Even if we don’t talk to each other every day, I am sure they will always respond to my texts or phone call,” Kudrow (Phoebe) said. Perry, on the other hand, pulled off a classic Chandler-like response: “I don’t hear from them at all,” he said. Was he joking, or serious? I couldn’t say!

The creators explained how they searched for the principal cast, and we got to know how the stars bagged their role.

The actors and the show runners talked about how the live audience added to the craft. A behind-the-scenes clip showed the creators, along with their staff of screenwriters, fine tuning the script in response to the audiences’ reactions.

Nostalgia hit us when the actors did a re-enactment of some of the hit episodes: Rachel and Ross confessing their love for each other; Phoebe shrieked out her famous lines: “My eyes! My eyes!” There was also a jaw-dropping rendition of the hit song Smelly Cat by Lady Gaga.

Among the many fun revelations, one piece de resistance — involving Aniston (Rachel) and Schwimmer (Ross) — stood apart. But I shall not say anything more on this: Watch, and you will know.

Of course, the reunion also talked about the cultural impact it made on its legion of viewers. Random fans — as well as celebs such as the popular Korean music band BTS, David Beckham and Malala Yousafzai — gushed about what Friends meant to them. A fan from India mentioned how she echoed Monica’s proposal to Chandler to her own boyfriend. Friends were my friends, many said.

Perhaps, that’s why this sitcom stood apart from the rest. In the six characters, fans saw themselves. Their set of struggles — from jobs to their relationships and strained friendships — mirrored their own lives. The show was criticised in its time for its lack of diverse actors, but this reunion was all about what made it a cult classic.

Towards the end, as the actors turned teary-eyed, Courteney said, “This will be the last time that we’re ever asked about the show as a group... We’re not going to do this again in 15 more years.”

Her words are perhaps a testament to the show itself: It was such fun that it certainly should not return. “Like anything good, it did come to an end,” said Marta.

And that is what is so exciting about a fabulous and creative piece of art — be it a film, a TV show, a book or a song. Everything good deserves an end.

Published on May 28, 2021

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