News, Culture & Society

Friends Reunion Special: The six iconic pals are FINALLY back together

The long-awaited Friends Reunion finally made its debut on Thursday, with the sitcom’s cast heading back to the iconic set to reminsce on the show’s history, 17 years since its conclusion. 

The six stars – Courteney Cox (Monica Gellar), Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay) and David Schwimmer (Ross Gelllar) – reunited on the Warner Bros. studio lot, where the original show was filmed, for a night full of laughs, tears and everything in between.

Friends is arguably one of most successful sitcoms of all time, running for 10 beloved seasons and 235 episodes from 1994 to 2004, and fans had been clamouring for a reunion for many years. 

The special – which earned a flurry of reaction from die-hard fans – also saw a slew of guest stars reminsce on their own memories of the show, including David Beckham, Kit Harington, BTS and Reese Witherspoon.

Could we BE anymore excited? The long-awaited Friends Reunion finally made its debut on Thursday, with the sitcom’s cast heading back to the iconic set to reminsce on the show’s history, 17 years since its conclusion 

The past is back! The series is arguably one of most successful sitcoms of all time, running for 10 beloved seasons and 235 episodes from 1994 to 2004, and fans had been clamouring for a reunion for many years

The past is back! The series is arguably one of most successful sitcoms of all time, running for 10 beloved seasons and 235 episodes from 1994 to 2004, and fans had been clamouring for a reunion for many years

The special was filmed over a three-day period on the Warner Bros. lot, using the iconic fountain from the show as a backdrop for the cast’s main discussion, hosted by James Corden.

The Late Late Show host – whose choice was quite controversial among fans – delved into the making of the show in a lively discussion, and reflected on the moment each actor landed their iconic part.

The special kicked off with all six actors heading back to the sitcom’s legendary set, and Jennifer struggled to hold back her tears as she embraced Courteney, clearly overwhelmed at returning to the series almost two decades since its conclusion.  

Finally! The six iconic stars - Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston , Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer - reunited on the Warner Bros. studio lot for a night full of laughs, tears and everything in between

Finally! The six iconic stars – Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston , Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer – reunited on the Warner Bros. studio lot for a night full of laughs, tears and everything in between 

Candid: During an interview with James Corden, the cast reflected on some of the sitcom's most iconic moments (Jennifer and Courteney pictured left)

Famous: They looked back at famous moments, from Ross and Rachel's first kiss to the legendary final episode

Candid: During an interview with James Corden, the cast reflected on some of the sitcom’s most iconic moments (Jennifer and Courteney left, and David and Matt right), from Ross and Rachel’s first kiss to the legendary final episode

They're back together! As the cast headed back to the set for the first time to being filming the special, Courteney struggled to hide her tears as she and Matt embraced

They’re back together! As the cast headed back to the set for the first time to being filming the special, Courteney struggled to hide her tears as she and Matt embraced

We're going back! Backstage Jennifer was ready to head back to the famous sofa 17 years after filming her final scenes as Rachel Green

We’re going back! Backstage Jennifer was ready to head back to the famous sofa 17 years after filming her final scenes as Rachel Green

Look who's back! David made his way through one of the show's famous apartments as they headed to the main set

Grand return: The cast returned to the show's original set to record the special

Look who’s back! David made his way through one of the show’s famous apartments as they headed to the main set, Monica’s apartment, to film scenes for the special

The cast visited the original soundstage – Stage 24 – where Friends was filmed, where it took over three weeks to re-construct the iconic set 17 years since the final scenes were filmed.

‘Where’s the tissue box?’ Jennifer asked while visiting the living room set, while LeBlanc wonders if Cox’s lines are still written on the kitchen table.

Corden also brought over Ben Winston, who serves as showrunner on The Late Late Show, to serve as the director and producer of the reunion special.

Though the Q&A did garner some criticism for failing to delve too deeply into topics that most Friends super-fans weren’t already familiar with.  

The discussion delved into familiar territory, asking about each cast member’s auditions and other tales from early in development.

Here he is! After the cast took their seats on the famous brown sofa that took centre stage in the show's intro, James Corden took to the stage to interview the stars about the show's greatest moments

Here he is! After the cast took their seats on the famous brown sofa that took centre stage in the show’s intro, James Corden took to the stage to interview the stars about the show’s greatest moments

Discussion: The discussion delved into familiar territory, asking about each cast member's auditions for the roles that would eventually make them into global stars

Discussion: The discussion delved into familiar territory, asking about each cast member’s auditions for the roles that would eventually make them into global stars

Open: Matt revealed he had just $11 to his name when he auditioned for the part

Did he want it? Producers admitted David was reluctant to accept the role after a bad experience working on a previous show

Open: Matt revealed he had just $11 to his name when he auditioned for the part, while producers admitted David was reluctant to accept the role after a bad experience working on a previous show

Aniston revealing a producer on a show she was on while auditioning for Friends, incorrectly told her, ‘That show won’t make you a star.’ 

She also shared the bombshell that she and David did have a sneaky off-screen crush on the series, while viewers were gripped by Ross and Rachel’s will-they won’t-they romance. 

As James asked: ‘ It’s impossible not to realise and see that you’re all young, hot, good looking successful actors, that it’s inconceivable to me that there weren’t perhaps off-screen romances.’

A coughing Jennifer said: ‘Well.. I mean, David?’ before David added: ‘The first season, I had a major crush on Jen.’ 

Table read: The nostalgia continued with the cast doing sporadic 'table reads' on the set, with the stars re-creating some of the show's most beloved moments

Table read: The nostalgia continued with the cast doing sporadic ‘table reads’ on the set, with the stars re-creating some of the show’s most beloved moments

Funny and heartfelt: Proving they could still jump straight back into character, the stars recreated some of the show's funniest and sweetest scene, including the moment Monica and Chandler's relationship was exposed

Funny and heartfelt: Proving they could still jump straight back into character, the stars recreated some of the show’s funniest and sweetest scene, including the moment Monica and Chandler’s relationship was exposed

Romance for the ages! In season four, fans were stunned to learn that Chandler and Monica had slept together at Ross' wedding, setting the stage for one of the sitcom's greatest couples

Romance for the ages! In season four, fans were stunned to learn that Chandler and Monica had slept together at Ross’ wedding, setting the stage for one of the sitcom’s greatest couples

Of his feelings for Jennifer, David added: ‘At some point we were both crushing hard on each other but it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship. So, and we never crossed that boundary, you know we respected that.’

But Matt didnt seem so convinced, declaring: ‘B*****t!’ 

The actress also reminisced on the iconic moment Ross and Rachel shared their first kiss in Central Perk, after he finally learned his hidden feelings were reciprocated.

She told James: ‘I remember saying one time to David, ”it’s gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is going to be on national television”.

‘Sure enough, first time we kissed was in that coffee shop. So we just channelled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.’  

No star: Aniston revealing a producer on a show she was on while auditioning for Friends, incorrectly told her, 'That show won't make you a star'

No star: Aniston revealing a producer on a show she was on while auditioning for Friends, incorrectly told her, ‘That show won’t make you a star’

Series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman also regaled fans with tales from casting, and how the idea for the show was first formed.

Matt admitted that before he landed the role, he had just $11 to his name as his career had hit rock bottom, have appeared in several short-lived sitcomes. 

Co-creator Marta Kauffman said: If I remember correctly, he had like $11 in his pocket when he auditioned, maybe it was nine, but it wasn’t a lot.

David added: ‘We saw a lot of guys who you believe were actors, guys who liked women, but they weren’t funny then Matt came in, and suddenly on him the lines felt funny. He hadn’t done an awful lot. He’s done another show, but he hadn’t done an awful lot.’

Producer Kevin Bright later added: ‘So Matt, went right down to the wire – auditioned for the network and NBC with another actor and he killed it and he got the partners Joey.

‘But the funny thing about it is the other actor ended up in the show in The One with the Unagi, playing fake Joey.’

Getting involved: Lady Gaga also made a star-studded cameo, heading into Central Perk with a guitar in hand to perform the famous song Smelly Cat alongside Lisa

So good: The singer, 35, appeared delighted to be performing a duet with Lisa Kudrow as she rocked out to the tune, before being joined by a gospel choir

So good: The singer, 35, appeared delighted to be performing a duet with Lisa Kudrow as she rocked out to the tune, before being joined by a gospel choir

Guest appearance: Not holding back, the hitmaker belted out the lyrics while playing her guitar and sitting on the yellow couch next to Lisa who hilariously told Gaga she wasn't 'too bad'

Guest appearance: Not holding back, the hitmaker belted out the lyrics while playing her guitar and sitting on the yellow couch next to Lisa who hilariously told Gaga she wasn’t ‘too bad’

Matt later left his co-stars recoiling in horror when he revealed he suffered a nasty nose injury mere hours before his audition, explaining: ‘To make a long story short, we woke up in the middle of the night at his apartment and had to go to the bathroom – and I got up too fast.

‘I can’t believe I’m telling this, I kind of blacked out as you do, fell face first into the toilet and I hit my nose on the bottom of the toilet seat, and a huge chunk of meat came off my nose.’

‘I’m looking in the mirror, it’s bleeding, I was like ‘oh my god, I have to go into the big callback’ and it’s like a big ugly scab on my nose.’

The actor’s accident ended up working in his favour as his honestly with the show’s creators helped him land the role, as he recalled: ‘Marta Kauffman said, ‘What happened to your face?’ And I told the truth… and I got the job.’

Blast from the past: The cast even quizzed each other on their Friends lore with a recreation of the legendary trivia game night

Dramatic: The scenes famously saw Rachel and Monica lose their beloved apartment to Chandler and Joey (pictured above in the original series)

Blast from the past: The cast even quizzed each other on their Friends lore with a recreation of the legendary trivia game night (right in the original series), which famously saw Rachel and Monica lose their beloved apartment to Chandler and Joey

What do you remember? Among questions asked were the ever-illustrious title of Chandler's job as well as identifying the lyrics to Ross' barbershop quarter performance for Rachel

What do you remember? Among questions asked were the ever-illustrious title of Chandler’s job as well as identifying the lyrics to Ross’ barbershop quarter performance for Rachel

Richard's back! Among questions asked were the ever-illustrious title of Chandler's job as well as identifying the lyrics to Ross' barbershop quarter performance for Rachel, and even featured surprise apprances from Tom Selleck

Richard’s back! Among questions asked were the ever-illustrious title of Chandler’s job as well as identifying the lyrics to Ross’ barbershop quarter performance for Rachel, and even featured surprise apprances from Tom Selleck 

Also during the special, Matt recalled how he dislocated his shoulder during filming of season three episode The One Where No One’s Ready.

The actor had to jump into a chair to annoy Chandler (Matthew Perry) and on the fourth attempt, he slipped and his shoulder came out of its socket.

Footage of the incident was shown during the reunion, with filming stopped for the rest of the day so Matt could receive medical attention. 

Still, for the more casual fan, the Friends Reunion Special may be more enlightening than for the die-hard fan, but there is still nostalgia aplenty. 

Could he BE wearing anymore clothes? During the special viewers also enjoyed a catwalk show featuring some of the comedy's greatest looks

He better not do any lunges! Matt once again donned Chandler's clothes to recreate the season two scene

Could he BE wearing anymore clothes? During the special viewers also enjoyed a catwalk show featuring some of the comedy’s greatest looks, with Matt (left) once again donning Chandler’s clothes to recreate the season two scene (right)

The nostalgia continued with the cast doing sporadic ‘table reads’ on the set, with the stars re-creating some of the show’s most beloved moments.

Among these moments are Monica getting stung by a jellyfish and Phoebe seeing Monica and Chandler kissing, along with the monumental first kiss between Ross and Rachel.

The cast even quiz each other on their Friends lore with a recreation of the legendary trivia game right in the living room set, which famously saw Rachel and Monica lose their beloved apartment to Chandler and Joey.

Among questions asked were the ever-illustrious title of Chandler’s job as well as identifying the lyrics to Ross’ barbershop quarter performance for Rachel, and even featured surprise apprances from Tom Selleck, who played Monica’s long-term boyfriend Richard, and the ever-grumpy Mr Heckles (Larry Hankin).

Most fans were expecting some of the show’s most iconic guest stars to return – and many of them do – but some of the biggest surprises come from celebrity fans.

When HBO announced the May 27 date for the special, it also released a list of celebrity guests that left many fans scratching their heads.

While some were expected like guest stars Tom, Reese Witherspoon, Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles, others like David Beckham and Malala Yousafzai were not.

Malala revealed that if she were to be any Friends character, she would be, ‘totally a Joey,’ with a bit of Phoebe as well, while also revealing her favorite moment is The Routine, the iconic dance between Monica and Ross.

Mindy Kaling said one of her favorite parts of the show was Monica and Chandler hiding their relationship during Season five, leading to the legendary episode The One Where Everybody Finds Out.

David Beckham also surprised fans by revealing he’s more of a Monica, because he is also a ‘clean freak,’ adding his favourite episode was infamous bottle ep The One Where No One’s Ready.

Lady Gaga also made a star-studded cameo, heading into Central Perk with a guitar in hand to perform the famous song Smelly Cat alongside Lisa.

Not holding back, the hitmaker belted out the lyrics while playing her guitar and sitting on the yellow couch next to Lisa who hilariously told Gaga she wasn’t ‘too bad.’

Starting off their segment, Gaga- real name Stefani Germanotta- asked: ‘Mind if I take Smelly Cat for a spin?’

Lisa happily agreed and was left nodding after hearing the hitmaker’s impressive vocals on the first few lines, telling her: ‘Not bad… that was really, really good.’

Adding an extra twist to the usually acoustic song, Gaga and Lisa were then joined by several gospel singers donning long blue robes for the final few lyrics. 

Once the applause died down, Lisa delighted fans some more as she joked: ‘That was so great… I still think it’s better when it’s just me.’ 

Joey: Malala revealed that if she were to be any Friends character, she would be, 'totally a Joey,' with a bit of Phoebe as well, while also revealing her favorite moment is 'The Routine,' the iconic dance between Monica and Ross

Joey: Malala revealed that if she were to be any Friends character, she would be, ‘totally a Joey,’ with a bit of Phoebe as well, while also revealing her favorite moment is ‘The Routine,’ the iconic dance between Monica and Ross

Monica: Mindy Kaling said one of her favorite parts of the show was Monica and Chandler hiding their relationship during Season 5

Monica: Mindy Kaling said one of her favorite parts of the show was Monica and Chandler hiding their relationship during Season 5

Clean freak: David Beckham also surprised fans by revealing he’s more of a Monica, because he is also a ‘clean freak.

The special wasn’t without seriouss moments, as star Matthew spoke movingly about his desperate need for validation from the show’s audience during filming. 

‘I felt like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh,’ he said. ‘And it’s not healthy, for sure. But I would sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh and I would sweat, and go into convulsions. If I didn’t get the laugh I was supposed to get, I would freak out. I felt like that every single night.’ 

While some fans may hope this long-awaited reunion could lead to a scripted revival series with all of the cast members returning, they all shot that down during the reunion, insisting this is likely the last time they’ll come together to discuss the show in such a manner.

Given the huge anticipation for the special, fans were no doubt furious when they struggled to access HBO Go in the US to stream the one-off.

US and international viewers penned: ‘The One Where HBO GO crashed #FriendsTheReunion… HBO GO crashing : ‘We were on a break!!’…  

‘##FriendsTheReunion… The one where I subscribed to HBO Go just for #FriendsReunion and it crashes. Anu na?!?!?!?!… 

NOOOO! Soon after stateside fans took to the app to watch the six cast members reunited with James Corden at the helm, Twitter was soon flooded with fury as viewers struggled to tune in due to tech problems

NOOOO! Soon after stateside fans took to the app to watch the six cast members reunited with James Corden at the helm, Twitter was soon flooded with fury as viewers struggled to tune in due to tech problems

Friends: What's clear from the one-hour-and-45-minute special is that these on-screen Friends have a deep and lasting friendship in real life that goes beyond the screen

Friends: What’s clear from the one-hour-and-45-minute special is that these on-screen Friends have a deep and lasting friendship in real life that goes beyond the screen

‘HBO better be fixing this now. #FriendsTheReunion… The One Where No One Can Watch Because HBO GO Crashed…

‘Today’s Friend’s episode can be named as ‘The One Where HBO GO’s servers crashed’… Ok someone will definitely be fired after this HBO crash.’ 

Despite this, once fans were finally able to watch the special, they quickly flooded Twitter with their delighted reactions. 

Fans penned: ‘Friends is also my go to show back in high school. It does have a special effect on people… The friends reunion ep is truly making me cry, I missed the show… 

‘I’m not crying, you are #FriendsReunion… Friends reunion is making me emotional… This friends reunion is everything I needed’… they literally couldn’t find 6 better cast members than these 6 unbelievably amazing and talented people #FriendsReunion.. Now that I saw the reunion I remember how much I loved Friends’.

Touching: On the emotional elements of the show, fans penned: 'Friends is also my go to show back in high school. It does have a special effect on people... The friends reunion ep is truly making me cry, I missed the show'

Touching: On the emotional elements of the show, fans penned: ‘Friends is also my go to show back in high school. It does have a special effect on people… The friends reunion ep is truly making me cry, I missed the show’

Many were then detailing their feelings towards particular moments, including Jennifer’s reveal that she was told by a producer that she would not succeed by taking her role, with a viewer writing: ‘Hope that producer who told Jennifer Aniston Friends wouldn’t succeed is watching reunion #FriendsTheReunion’.

Another responded to the fact that Matthew said he would have panic attacks about learning his lines amid his battles with mental health and addiction: ‘Matthew Perry having panic attacks if he didn’t nail the lines in the episode *sigh* totally understand the pressures in that regard (of work, etc).’

In an incredibly moving element, fans stated that Friends helped save lives, in response to a comment made on the show, as they wrote: ‘It’s the fact that the show friends has helped people through literal life problems…

‘It’s true. They were there for me when no one else was. They were my friends when i didn’t have one. These people saved me when i was in the toughest and lowest point of my life.’

How we’ve missed our favourite Friends! After 17 years apart, the gang returns for one night only… CHRISTOPHER STEVENS gives the reunion four stars 

By Christopher Stevens for The Daily Mail

Friends: The Reunion

Rating:

Once in an eon, all the planets align. That’s what Friends: The Reunion is like … not so much a TV show, more an accident of astrology. Courteney Cox, who played Monica in the sitcom that defined the Nineties, is emphatic in tonight’s two-hour show: ‘We are not going to do this again.’

And Lisa Kudrow, who co-starred as the ditzy Phoebe, looks aghast when host James Corden diffidently suggests there might be another series or even a movie.

Never, she insists. She wants to remember the characters as we left them, saying: ‘I don’t want anyone’s happy endings unravelled.’

Since it has taken 17 years to get the six stars on screen together, we’ll have to accept these denials. Friends fans, this is your lot.

Weepy: Matt LeBlanc dries Courteney Cox’s tears as Jennifer Aniston looks on. Once in an eon, all the planets align. That’s what Friends: The Reunion is like, writes Christopher Stevens

Weepy: Matt LeBlanc dries Courteney Cox’s tears as Jennifer Aniston looks on. Once in an eon, all the planets align. That’s what Friends: The Reunion is like, writes Christopher Stevens

Why has the get-together taken so long? All six insist they adore each other, speak regularly on the phone and meet for dinner. Matthew Perry (the acerbic Chandler) claims that whenever one former Friend bumps into another at a party, they spend the rest of the evening chatting, to the exclusion of everyone else. And tonight’s special certainly involves endless cuddles, hugs and hand-holding. They’re a tactile bunch.

So it’s a mystery why they’re adamant it’ll never happen again. True, this event feels heavily scripted but there is nothing very complicated about it. One by one, the stars arrive at a studio where their old set has been lovingly recreated.

‘Oh, weird,’ says Jennifer Aniston. ‘Well, where’s the tissue box?’ A lot of viewers will have just the same, lump-in-the-throat reaction. It is strange to see the sets remade as museum pieces.

Matt LeBlanc, who played Joey, picks up a period laptop the size of a breeze block. ‘This is how old we are,’ he says, hefting it. (The show ran for ten seasons from 1994 to 2004, a total of 236 episodes.)

They sit on the sofa in the girls’ apartment. They sit on the sofa at Central Perk coffee house. They sit on a sofa in front of the fountain from the title sequence. In every possible sense, they are never out of their comfort zone. And with each actor paid an appearance fee rumoured to be up to $2.5million (about £1.8million), you can’t blame them for looking satisfied.

Sofa so good: Five of the Friends back in the comfort zone of Monica and Rachel’s apartment

Sofa so good: Five of the Friends back in the comfort zone of Monica and Rachel’s apartment

Some have worn better than others. Aniston is still sporting a version of her famous ‘Rachel’ hairstyle. Cox and Kudrow are imperceptibly older, at least by comparison to how they were in the finale.

David ‘Ross’ Schwimmer would still fit into his leather drainpipes. But LeBlanc looks like he’s enjoyed a well-fed lockdown. He’s still got those Italian good looks but now he’s less Frank Sinatra, more Antonio Carluccio. 

Perry, whose health and addiction problems have been well documented, sometimes appears unwell, slurring his words. (A source close to the actor has since attributed this to ‘an emergency tooth procedure’ on the day of filming.) His co-stars support him, staying silent when he speaks, perhaps to make it easier for his lines to be honed in the editing suite.

And it is Perry who strikes the only sorrowful note in an otherwise cheerful show.

Describing the anxiety he felt performing before a live audience, he says: ‘I felt like I was gonna die if they didn’t laugh. It’s not healthy. I would sometimes say a line and they wouldn’t laugh, and I would sweat and go into convulsions. I felt like that every single night.’ The secret of Friends was always its big emotions. There’s nothing subtle about the characters and their feelings. Ross always looks like a wet-eyed puppy begging for a treat. Rachel is perpetually on the verge of hysterics, Joey is forever realising how randy he is.

That makes it easy for fans to develop a bond with one or other in the ensemble. During the reunion, celebrities queue to tell us which is their special Friend.

Turn back time: Courteney Cox (Monica) greets Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe). One by one, the stars arrive at a studio where their old set has been lovingly recreated

Turn back time: Courteney Cox (Monica) greets Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe). One by one, the stars arrive at a studio where their old set has been lovingly recreated

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai reckons she’s like Joey, because she loves making her room-mate laugh with unexpected quips. David Beckham watches repeats in hotel rooms: ‘I have to say, I’m most like Monica because I’m a clean freak.’

He cites the episode where Chandler and Joey fight over an armchair: ‘It makes you smile almost to the point of crying.’

Reese Witherspoon, who guest starred as one of Rachel’s sisters Jill, makes a flying visit. So does Elliott Gould, who played Monica’s dad, and Tom Selleck, her first serious boyfriend Richard.

Others are seen only in flashback, such as Ben Stiller and Danny DeVito. We even glimpse a young Brad Pitt – though Jen refers to her ex-husband by his surname only.

You’d have to be a true devotee to know all the special guests, actors who win whoops and shrieks from the sparse and socially distanced audience. But then, if you don’t know who Janice, Gunther or Mr Heckles are, why would you be watching?

Why? Perhaps because no other sitcom in TV history has warmed our hearts quite like Friends. Good to see you guys again. We’ve missed you.

Friends: The Reunion is on Sky One at 8pm on Thursday. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk