The Story Of FRIENDS! Everything You Need To Prepare For The Reunion

Whether you're a diehard fan or curious about the hype, this article will give you everything you need to prepare for the reunion special.
friends cast hbo max
Image Source: Deadline

On September 22, 1994, a new comedy show pilot aired on NBC. Originally called Insomnia Café, then Six of One, then Friends Like Us until finally being shortened to Friends, the show created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman became one of the biggest television shows of all time. With 62 Emmys and a ten-season run, few series can claim to have the cultural impact and to have influenced comedy television the way that Friends has. 

Now, seventeen years after the May 6, 2004 series finale, the actors are finally reuniting to celebrate the show and the impact it has had not only on their lives but on its generations of viewers all around the world. Whether you’re a diehard fan or have never seen an episode and are curious what the hype’s about, this article will help you prepare for the reunion episode. 

What to Expect from the Friends Reunion 

The reunion episode, also titled “The One Where They Get Back Together”, premieres on HBO Max on May 27, 2021. This reunion will be the cast appearing as themselves; in other words, don’t expect to see Rachel, Monica, and the others reuniting on-screen. 

According to an exclusive interview with People magazine, although the castmates have remained friends and met up regularly throughout the years, this will be one of the first times the six of them meet up in the same room. To do so in a recreated set, reliving the show that shaped their lives and pop culture to this day, will be extremely emotional and dynamic. 

In the trailer, the friends recreate a trivia game featured in “The One with the Embryos” and reading through an old script from “The One Where Everybody Finds Out”. The entire contents of the reunion, however, will remain a mystery up to its release. 

Friends! The Main Six Characters Summary

If it's been a while since you've seen the show, here's a quick refresher of our main six characters and what they bring to the series.

Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston)

rachel green friends
Image Source: Pinterest

When we first meet Rachel, she is soaking wet and wearing a wedding gown. This chaotic energy summarizes what her life is like in the first couple of seasons; after running away from marrying a man she doesn’t love, Rachel is cut off from her rich family and forced to make her way on her own for the very first time. She is taken in by her high school best friend, Monica, and adopted quickly into the group of friends. 

Over time, Rachel makes her way from a waitress at Central Perk to a businesswoman working in fashion, a field she is clearly passionate about. This passion influences the design of her character; Rachel’s looks are still adored today and her iconic hairstyle ‘the Rachel’ was a phenomenon in the nineties. Her character evolves from a spoiled child to a kindhearted, level-headed woman who would do anything for her friends. 

Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer)

ross geller friends
Image Source: Reddit

Watching David Schwimmer act, it’s no surprise that the role of Ross Geller was originally written with him in mind. This, paired with the fact that it was his and Jennifer’s chemistry that changed the lead couple in the show from Monica and Joey to Ross and Rachel, make it clear that Schwimmer’s presence was instrumental to the show. 

At first, Ross’s defining characteristic seems to be his years-long love for Rachel. However, it becomes clear that Ross is a sensitive, intelligent member of the group. He works as a paleontologist and is passionate about dinosaurs and academia. In addition to this, he is willing to work with his ex-wife and her new partner, whom he dislikes, to be a part of his son’s life. Although Ross makes some frustrating decisions (they weren’t on a break) he always works to correct them and become a better version of himself. 

Monica Geller (played by Courtney Cox)

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Image Source: Who What Wear

When Courtney Cox was recruited for Friends, she was originally offered the lead role of Rachel. Cox resisted this, asking instead to play Monica because she admired the strong character. 

Monica’s strength is evident in every episode her character is in. Competitive, assertive, and incredibly clean, Monica Geller is a force to be reckoned with. In many ways, it’s Monica who holds the group together; Phoebe joins the friends because Monica makes a spot for her. years later Rachel finds herself taken in by Monica as well. It’s Monica’s apartment that serves as the home base for the gang. Her strength is also shown in her relationships; she walks away from an incredible relationship because he’s unwilling to give her children. Monica is a character who never settles. She demands the best for herself and for her loved ones, which is what makes her so important. 

Joey Tribbiani (played by Matt LeBlanc)

joey tribbiani friends
Image Source: The Guardian

An actor with a heart of gold, Joey is in many ways the heart of this friend group. His character provides much of the comic relief by being considerably less intelligent than the others. Still, he is serious when it really counts and never hesitates to step up when a friend needs him. In one season, Joey converts his apartment into a nursery when Rachel and her baby have to move out unexpectedly. Later on, he gives up a relationship with Rachel for the sake of Ross, who hadn’t dated her in years at the time. 

Besides being an avid lover of sandwiches, Joey enjoys dating pretty women. It’s almost surprising that out of everyone, he ends up without a romantic partner by the series’ end. However, he does get his big break as an actor and comes out of season ten with a room in Monica and Chandler’s house and a group of friends who care as deeply for him as he does for them. 

Phoebe Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow)

Phoebe Buffay Friends
Image Source: Pinterest

Out of everyone, Phoebe is definitely the wildcard of the group. While auditioning for her, Lisa Kudrow decided to take a straightforward approach to the character’s backstory, listing out her past tragedies matter-of-factly and leaving the others unsure how to respond. Pairing this with her guitar playing and songwriting, her views of the world, and her interactions with others, it’s easy to understand Kudrow when she says that Phoebe has a different “point of reference” for what is normal. 

Phoebe is a virtually selfless character, volunteering to act as a surrogate for her brother and his wife without question even though she initially disapproved of their relationship. She treats her friends with tough love, never allowing them to stray too far down the wrong path and calling them out when they are wrong. As well as this, she extends sympathy and empathy to her father and twin sister, neither of whom she is on good terms with. Overall, Phoebe’s character is perhaps the kindest of the friends, if not the most surprising. 

Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry)

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Image Source: Pinkvilla

Last but certainly not least, Chandler Bing is my personal favorite. His sarcastic sense of humor and dry wit carry much of the show’s comedy and the way he pokes fun at the other members of the group as well as himself keeps most scenes interesting and lighthearted. However, Chandler does have his more serious moments, coming through as a support system when others are in distress. His financial support of Joey is just one example of this.

Out of every character, Chandler experiences the most growth (aside from Rachel, perhaps). He goes from an awkward, self-deprecating loner terrified of commitment to a committed husband and father to Monica. His career also shifts, from statistical analysis and data reconfiguration to a successful place in advertising. Still, he never loses his sense of humor or his ability to make them, and the audience, laugh. 

Top Ten; The Best Friends Episodes Ever 

Image Source: Biography

IDMB has ranked the most popular episode of Friends. In an effort to prepare for the Friends Reunion, or if watching the reunion made you want to relive the series without watching all 236 episodes (understandable), watching these top-rated few is a great way to reintroduce yourself to the world of Friends.  

10. “The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding, Part 2” (7.24)

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Image Source:

Monica and Chandler’s wedding day is on the edge of catastrophe in this two-part finale. Chandler panics and takes off, leaving Ross and Phoebe to track him down. Then, Phoebe and Rachel find a positive pregnancy test in the trash that they believe to be Monica’s. Finally, Joey is stuck on the set of his movie filming a scene with another actor who is heavily intoxicated and must finish before he can leave to officiate the wedding ceremony. The episode ends with the sudden revelation that Monica is not pregnant after all, but one of the friends is. 

9. “The One with All the Thanksgivings/The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks” (5.8)

Monica and Rachel Friends
Image Source: IMDb

In this flashback-filled episode, the friends tell the stories of their worst thanksgivings. We see Monica, Rachel, Ross, and Chandler interacting as high school/college students and learn that Chandler was interested in Monica even then, but that he made fun of her weight. The story ended up upsetting Chandler so much that Monica tries to cheer him up by putting a turkey on her head and dancing. This is also the first time Chandler admits to loving Monica, although he panics immediately afterward.  

8. “The One with Ross’s Wedding, Part 2” (4.24)

ross emily friends
Image Source: Metro

Ross plans to marry Emily, a woman he’s only known for a short time, come to a screeching halt when he says the wrong name at the altar. In this season finale’s final scene, which had to be filmed without a live studio audience due to the cliffhanger, Ross calls Emily ‘Rachel’ during his vows. Rachel, who had rushed to London to stop the wedding but decided against it in favor of his happiness, sits in the audience completely shocked. 

This episode also marks the beginning of Monica and Chandler’s relationship. According to IMDB, this scene had to be re-shot due to the surprising reaction the audience had. 

7. “The One with the Rumor” (8.9)

Will and Rachel Friends
Image Source: Pinkvilla

Trigger Warning: Please be advised that this episode insensitively handles the topic of intersexuality. According to Medline Plus, intersex is “a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals”. Although rarely talked about, this condition is extremely common and should never be used as the topic of ridicule or scorn.  

Brad Pitt guest stars in this episode as a high-school friend of Monica’s. His character, Will, hates Rachel Green (which is especially funny given the relationship between Brad and Jennifer Aniston from 1998-2005; this episode was filmed during their marriage in 2001!). This episode is a Thanksgiving special, something that became a tradition in Friends across its many seasons. 

6. “The One with the Videotape” (8.4)

Image Source: IMDb

After it is revealed that Ross is the father of Rachel’s expected child, a discussion comes up about how it happened. Ross and Rachel end up disagreeing about who came onto who. Ross reveals that he accidentally videotaped their night together, and naturally, the six friends decide to watch the beginning of the tape to see who is telling the truth. 

5. “The One with the Proposal, Part 2” (6.25)

Chandler and Monica Friends
Image Source: Friends Wiki- Fandom

Monica and Chandler’s relationship is one of the best parts of the series, and in this two-parter, Chandler has finally decided to set aside his fear of commitment and propose. In an attempt to surprise Monica and fearing she knows what’s coming, he pretends that he never wants to get married and laughs at the idea of proposing. Things get complicated when Monica’s ex-boyfriend, Richard reappears and confesses his love for her and his willingness to marry and have kids with her, the very thing that initially leads to their breakup. Of course, things end well for Chandler, ending up in a surprise, candlelit proposal.

4. “The One with the Prom Video” (2.14)

ross rachel friends
Image Source: Friends Wiki- Fandom

In this episode, the gang looks back at a video of Rachel and Monica getting ready for their high school prom. However, Ross appears reluctant to participate and tries to dissuade the group from watching it. The reason why becomes clear when it’s revealed that Ross, who has been in love with Rachel for years, was planning on taking her to the prom after her date didn’t show up. But Rachel’s date arrived at the last minute and the girls never knew what Ross had done until seeing it on film. After realizing how much Ross had always cared about her, Rachel kisses him and begins the decade-long on-again-off-again relationship that fans still obsess over to this day. 

3. “The One with the Embryos” (4.12)

Image Source: TV Guide

Phoebe decides to become a surrogate mother to her brother and his wife in this episode, a storyline is written to account for Lisa Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy. However, this episode is better known for the game between Monica and Rachel (the girls) and Chandler and Joey (the boys). After a conversation about who knows the others best, they decide to compete in a Jeopardy-style game written by Ross. The questions are hilariously personal and the stakes rise higher and higher, eventually ending up with Monica betting their apartment and losing. 

2. “The Last One/The One Where They Say Goodbye” (10.17, 10.18)

Image Source: Friends Wiki- Fandom

In the most important and saddest episode of Friends, Rachel gives up a job in Paris to stay with Ross (resolving a decade-long will-they won’t-they relationship), Monica and Chandler’s children are born (surprise! It’s twins!) and the six friends part ways to start the next chapter of their lives. Watching the final emotional scene, a shot of six keys lying in an empty apartment, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelming sorrow and gratitude for the ten-year journey this show traversed.  

1. “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (5.14)

The nearly season-long secret of Monica and Chandler’s relationship is finally revealed in this fan-favorite episode. While viewing an apartment across the street from theirs, Phoebe catches Monica and Chandler together through the window. She discovers that Rachel and Joey have both been keeping their secret for them and decides to have some mischief of her own by flirting with Chandler to freak him out. However, Chandler and Monica catch onto the plan fairly quickly. Rather than coming clean, both sides try to force the other to admit what they know, resulting in a hilarious fake date between Chandler and Phoebe and a true love confession from the commitment-fearing Chandler.  

A Critique of Friends; The Show's Biggest Failures

Every piece of media is problematic in one way or another, and it’s important to view the things we enjoy with a critical eye. Although Friends had many attributes, as well as attempts at progressive content in keeping with the time, there are things that should have been omitted, revised, or simply handled in a better way. 

Acknowledging the failings of a television show doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it. All it means is that we remain mindful and hold each other and ourselves to a higher standard in both the present and the future. 

There are three main categories in which Friends should have made a better effort:

1. Friends has an embarrassing lack of racial diversity

Charlie Friends
Image Source: Friends Wiki- Fandom

Despite living in New York, the show features very few characters that aren’t white. One exception to this is Dr. Charlie Wheeler, played by Aisha Tyler. Her character doesn’t appear until midway through the ninth season. This criticism is echoed by many Friends critics (rightfully so) and is even mentioned in the Netflix Original Series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 

2. ‘Fat Monica’ jokes make light of a serious issue in Friends

Monica Geller friends
Image Source: Yahoo News UK

When the only plus-sized character on a television show is a thin actress wearing a fat suit for the sake of making a joke, the show writers have failed a large portion of their audience. Plus-sized viewers, or viewers who struggle or have struggled with their relationship with food and eating, see Monica in flashbacks and alternate universe episodes made into a joke. In the show, it’s made clear that Monica’s eating stems from emotional issues that include feeling inferior to her older brother, Ross, a theme that returns throughout the series. However, the inclusion of ‘Fat Monica’ was tasteless and best left out of the show altogether.

3. Friends wrongfully treats its LGBTQ+ characters

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Image Source: Entertainment Tonight

The progressive steps taken in including Carol and Susan as a lesbian couple, even allowing them to get married, are undermined by their horrible treatment of Chandler Bing’s father. The character is presented as a drag queen but coded as a transgender woman; nevertheless, he/him pronouns and a male name are used. Transphobic jokes are often made at the character’s expense. 

There are also insensitive jokes scattered throughout the series, from offhanded remarks regarding Carol and Susan to “The One with the Rumor,” an episode featuring a rumor regarding intersexuality. 

The casting of Chandler’s dad is also a point to be made; a cisgender actress named Kathleen Turner plays the role. [In an article on Huffington Post, the actress says she would not take the role again. She should be admired for learning from the experience and taking steps to better herself and her understanding of LGBTQ+ issues.] 

A Personal Note; Why Hayley K Loves Friends 

Before HBO Max, Friends was available on Netflix from January 1, 2015, until December 31, 2019. The streaming service made it accessible to a new generation of fans. One of those fans was me.

During my freshman year of college, living away from home for the first time, I was faced with a myriad of challenges. I felt overwhelmed, drained, and desperately in need of an anchor in my life. The Friends poster on my new roommate’s wall sparked one of our first conversations. She was stunned to learn that I had never seen an episode of Friends and introduced it to me (in exchange, I showed her Supernatural and Doctor Who). Within one season, I was hooked. 

The relationships between these characters made them both enviable (despite their mishaps) and entertaining to watch; not only was the writing hilarious, but watching these six flawed people begin making their way in the world made me feel less hopeless and alone. For the entirety of my freshman year, Friends was my go-to after every stressful test and every bad day; in short, anytime I was in need of a laugh or a break, Friends was there. 

I’ll be one of the first to admit that this show has its flaws, but to me, Friends will always be special. It’s the show my roommate and I first bonded over, the show that made me smile when nothing else could, and the show I find myself coming back to over and over again. 

Despite its shortcomings, Friends is an incredible show beloved by millions. 

A twenty-something writer trying to find her place in the world. I love my dog, mugs of hot tea, and all things make-believe.

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