The Friends reunion, called ‘The One Where They Get Back Together’, is due to hit HBO Max on May 27. But it turns out that it isn’t what most fans were expecting when we first heard about the iconic cast reuniting.
When the reunion was teased last year by Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, there weren’t many available details about what it would look like. Understandably, fans were hoping for a new episode where we could see the group years later.
Some wanted to see Monica and Chandler’s twins, who were born in the finale episode, grow up and spend time with Ross and Rachel’s daughter Emma and potentially other children they may have had since getting back together. Others were hoping to see Joey finally settle down, particularly because a fifty-year-old Matt Le Blanc asking women “How you doin’?’’ might not have been a good look. And, of course, a lot of us were looking forward to the return of fan-favorite Paul Rudd as Phoebe’s husband Mike.
Mainly, we wanted to see how these characters have changed and evolved, while maintaining their friendships. Friends was popular because many related to their woes surrounding money, relationships, friendships, and living in New York in their twenties. We wanted to see whether those friendships lasted beyond families and a move to the suburbs.
Unfortunately, that is not what we’re getting. More information about the Friends reunion has come to light as we approach its airdate, and we are being told to expect behind-the-scenes details of the original show, discussions about their characters, and a litany of celebrity guests such as James Corden, David Beckham, Lady Gaga, Tom Selleck, Reese Witherspoon and Malala Yousafzai.
The celebrity guests invited to the reunion span from those involved in the show (Selleck played Monica’s love interest Richard Burke and Witherspoon played Rachel’s sister Jill) to celebrity superfans, but there is a lot of confusion about why we need a reunion that places all of these people in the same room. Many of us are also asking: Is there really anything new to get out of this reunion? It’s been 17 years since Friends’ final episode aired, and every ‘what you didn’t know about Friends’ article has already been done to death.
HBO Max has released a statement about the format, “in order to avoid any misunderstanding about what this special is,” because fans were so excited for a new episode of Friends that this reunion is falling very short of our expectations – and they know it.
The Friends reunion is not the reunion we wanted. Instead, it takes its cue from reality TV shows like Love Island, Love Is Blind or Married At First Sight, where the contestants come together to discuss what has happened between the couples since filming ended, rather than shows like Will & Grace or Gilmore Girls, where the original cast members came back to give the fans new scenes and further character development.
Most Friends fans will likely tell you that they would’ve preferred no reunion to the one that we’re currently getting. What we’re getting, after all, is not that different to when the various Friends actors would discuss their roles on the sitcom in interviews or on late-night panel shows.
Additionally, the Friends fandom have had to reckon with the fact that many of the jokes and storylines the show did not age well. There were several instances of fatphobia, particularly in the recurring ‘Fat Monica’ joke, as well as elements of misogyny and homophobia. Conversations around race or class were minimal, if they happened at all, and the cast was overwhelmingly privileged and white. With all of these considerations, we have to wonder whether a reunion of this occasionally problematic (but much beloved) show was necessary in the first place and, if so, how they might reflect on these issues.
It is currently unclear as to whether such issues will be discussed by the cast members at their forthcoming reunion, but it would have been much more interesting to see them play out through new storylines and conversations. Simply watching the actors ruminate about how they could’ve done it feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth.
Fans desperately wanted to see Monica, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Ross and Phoebe grace their TV screens again. With this disappointing format, it feels like those desires were taken advantage of and then steamrollered over.