Friends Reunion: The One Where They Made Fans Cry

Whether you watched the show when it aired or only recently started it, the finale had something for everybody. It was full of nostalgia and laughs.

From behind-the-scenes clips, cast stories, and special guest stars, HBO Max really pulled out all of the stops for this reunion special. Coming from a big fan of the show for the majority of my life, everything they did meant a lot and I could tell it meant a lot to the cast as well.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the Friends reunion, but I’m happy it wasn’t solely them sitting on the Central Perk couch with James Corden asking them questions. (No offense, James Corden). I was not at all surprised that it made me tear up numerous times from beginning to end and played very well to the nostalgia factor.

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Image Source: BBC

The impact of Friends

It’s easy to forget, especially for me, that actors aren’t actually the characters they portray. The beginning of the reunion really reminded me of the fact that Friends was also a huge part of their lives, just in a different way from the show’s audience.

I loved being able to see each of the main cast’s reactions to being back on the set and then to see each other together, apparently for only the second time since the show ended 17 years ago. 

Hearing them talk about whether they ever watched the show was a really big thing that made me think about how strange their lives must be. They all have favorite episodes, but to them, it was more about which episodes were the most fun or memorable to film, not about which jokes landed best or which plot was the most interesting.

They played trivia for a portion of the reunion, which, in a way, reminded me that they are people too and are not that different from me and my friends, who also play Friends trivia. Given, the cast knew a lot more of the answers than I did in their game, but the show was also their whole livelihood for 10 years, so that’s to be expected.

The fact that more than one of them made a comment about the support beam in Monica’s apartment being back even though it was removed at some point during the filming of the show really made that apparent to me.

friends reunion cast coffee
Image Source: Today Show

How did the cast impact the show Friends and its audience?

I was never a fan of Ross Geller, and since I watched the show so early on in my life, I generalized that dislike of Ross to David Schwimmer. The reunion helped humanize him and make me discern the actor from the character.

I also loved hearing that his kids are watching the show now and can only imagine the joy and pride he feels getting to share those on- and off-screen memories with them.

When Corden asked each actor if Ross and Rachel were in fact on a break, even Schwimmer agreed they were and that was the most redeeming thing he could have said, in my opinion. He did say he didn’t like working with the monkey actor who played Marcel, but he did have legitimate reasons so I let that slide.

I was absolutely thrilled to see every other actor, though, and everybody seemed so comfortable and happy to be around each other, it made me happy for them.

Of course, insecurities came up from some members of the cast, which I always encourage because it goes to show everyone that they are not alone with their struggles. Matthew Perry, a professional actor specializing in comedy, used to get anxious his jokes wouldn't land during a live taping.

Visibility is important, especially with mental health, and I don’t think enough actors get credit for just talking about the things in their lives that aren’t perfect and relating to not only their fans but so many people in general.

During the reunion, I was also reminded of just how talented each of these actors are, and I started to appreciate them all over again. They table-read a couple of scenes, and it was so incredible to watch them elevate the lines on their paper just like how they did it twenty years prior and for scenes they probably haven’t watched since they filmed.

The recorded interviews with Marta Kauffman and David Crane focused a lot on the casting process of the main six characters, and the fact that it seemed so hard to cast every single one of them really speaks to how lucky it was that the cast worked and got along so well with each other.

That’s a true testament to good writing and casting to be able to take a comedy script (which really does need the right people to be able to make such simple lines funny) and turn it into one of the most-watched television shows with over 100 billion streams of each episode across streaming platforms.

It has to feel like fate that they were able to cast six people who were not big names and turn them into people any television watcher would be able to name and recognize, or what some would consider a household name.

The show holds such a special place in a lot of people’s hearts (mine included) and it was great to see the sheer number of people who continue to enjoy its message and its humor.

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Image Source: Sky News, HBO Max

How will the show FRIENDS continue to impact lives?

Growing up after Friends was already off the air means I missed a lot of the backstage stories and interviews with the cast and creators, so I only knew what was directly on the screen in front of me. This reunion gave me a lot of background information I’m sure I would have loved to have when I watched the show the first (or even the second) time.

For instance, I had absolutely no idea that fan response at the taping of Ross’s wedding in London episode played such a big part in growing and keeping Monica and Chandler’s relationship. To me, watching it at least ten years after it aired, the relationship seemed like a natural progression but to think the writers hadn’t really considered that an option before gauging a live audience’s response was amazing!

I first watched Friends when I was around six years old, so I was watching it from a purely comedic standpoint even though I (obviously) didn’t get most of the jokes.

Now, when I watch it at 21 years old and living across the country from my family, I have never related more to Friends truly being about the time in your life when your friends are your true family.

The show has obviously resonated with a lot of people worldwide, as HBO even shared stories from international fans about the impact the show has had on their lives, and it’s almost shocking to see that it still holds the same impact. 

It was so surreal to look back and see the impact it had on television, even while it was still airing. I had no idea the cast made it onto the cover of Rolling Stone and didn’t even realize that was a thing TV show stars could do. Then again, Rachel’s haircut became so iconic it ruled the late ‘90s and early 2000s, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

I believe it will only continue to do so, as original fans of the show will show it to their children. Nothing can beat a show that combines wit, slapstick humor, well-written characters, and awkward scenarios.

I recently decided to rewatch the series when it got added to HBO Max since I already have a subscription, and it was wild the number of times I still laughed out loud despite having seen the show multiple times already and for a lot of the humor to be aimed at people older than me.

A lot of people (especially my age and Gen Z) have been saying Friends is overhyped and a ‘basic’ choice for a favorite sitcom, but it’s a classic. There’s no way something like New Girl, The Office, or Parks and Recreation would have been nearly as successful at being an ensemble comedy if it hadn't been for Friends.

Although I wouldn’t call Friends my favorite sitcom, it is definitely high up on my list and one of the most relatable shows to the stage of life I and so many others are and will continue to be in.

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Image Source: NBC News

Who made a guest appearance at the reunion?

They didn’t just stop at reminding us about the actor’s favorite memories, they also decided to have guest appearances from a ton of people and really play up the nostalgia factor.

The first person to make an appearance was Reese Witherspoon, and I was shocked because I had genuinely forgotten she portrayed Rachel Green’s sister.

They brought out the actor who played their neighbor who died and made them go through all of his belongings, the barbershop quartet Ross hired to serenade Rachel, Joey’s hand twin from the casino, Richard the optometrist, Mr. and Mrs. Geller, Janice (oh my God!), and Gunther from Central Perk!

Not only did they bring in, famous guest stars, but they also included other big celebrity names to make an appearance to talk about the importance of Friends in their lives.

The K-pop group BTS, David Beckham, Mindy Kaling, Lady Gaga, and Kit Harrington all sent in video interviews about their positive relationships with the show. Would we even have a Lady Gaga if it weren’t for Phoebe Buffay?

HBO also (for some reason) had Cara Delevingne, Cindy Crawford, and Justin Bieber make appearances during a fashion show of iconic outfits throughout the seasons. I thought this segment was really fun and also nostalgic to see all of the memories brought to life once again, but it really wasn’t necessary to bring in other big, and overall unrelated, celebrities.

These guest stars only continued to make me feel nostalgic and miss seeing them all interact with each other in the show, so I think it did its job of giving the fans what they want without ruining the integrity of the show’s ending.

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Image Source: Entertainment Tonight

At first, I will say I was disappointed to know the reunion wasn’t going to be another episode, but as Kauffman and Crane so graciously pointed out, they would have had to create some discourse in the characters’ presumably happy lives for the sake of our entertainment.

I am very grateful to have witnessed the actors reminiscing about the substantial time they spent on set with this show and with each other, and I hope more shows continue to do this in the future. Especially ones that launched a lot of people’s careers and had such a big impact on so many people’s lives.

If you need to find me, I’ll be rewatching Friends again.

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