TV review: Friends: The Reunion
Could we be any more excited? Well, yes. Initially.
After all the hype, it was disappointing to find that this reunion – which is now showing on HBO Go – is not a return of the characters from the hit comedy series in a new episode. Possibly for the best, as it is hard to recapture lightning in a bottle.
Normally, getting the cast of Friends together for a chat sounds like a semi-decent episode of The Graham Norton Show. It doesn't seem that great an achievement. But this is Hollywood and HBO wants to roar in the face of other streamers, so big emotion, big hugs and big tears – warranted or not – are required.
Friends was a great ensemble comedy, even though parts of it are being picked as problematic today. (Not that any of that gets a mention).
Despite being three years shy of 30, it still has a fan base others would envy. It has been watched, we are told, over 100 billion times on all platforms.
Friends influenced fashion, hair and phrases from the show took on a life of their own. Friends put “going commando” into the global lexicon.
So what we have is part chat show hosted by a thankfully subdued James Corden, part documentary with creators Kevin Bright, David Crane, Marta Kauffman and part trivia game/reminiscing session with the cast on the old sets.
Together, the six stars can still have the same energy. A moment with a flying bug during the Corden interview sees them fall into familiar mannerisms.
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Some have been through more changes than others, physically and emotionally, and there's an awkwardness during the chat show segments. By the end of the show, you might even find yourself wondering if Courtney Cox said anything during the show.
While they all seem to genuinely get along, it's Matt LeBlanc – having less of the precious actor about him – whose presence provides a grounding element and keeps things light. He's clearly the happiest and most well-adjusted cast member.
Without LeBlanc, this could easily have been a neurosis-fest.
We have a slew of guest stars. Some, such as David Beckham, just describe what happens in their favourite scene – an excruciating exercise that sucks away all the energy and humour.
In the case of Tom Selleck (who played Monica's controversially older boyfriend back in 1996), his defiance of the ageing process is a lesson in picking a look and staying with it.
It skims over the more difficult bits – the closest we get to the dark side of fame is Matthew Perry describing the intense anxiety over whether the jokes landed – but it is here only to celebrate a global phenomenon.
Some of the recollections you will have heard many times before, some are eye-opening, or in the case of watching LeBlanc dislocate his shoulder on set, eye-popping.
Some reveals might even be mind-blowing.
For the most part, it is a nice enough trip down memory lane. But there are also so many sections to this sitcom Franken-tribute, and at over 104 minutes, even the best of Friends can overstay a welcome.
FRIENDS: THE REUNION (NC16)
This article has been amended for clarity. We originally said the show was 160 minutes long. It is 104 minutes long. We apologise for the error.