Expert’s view

What did the critics make of Friends: The Reunion?

The two-hour special aired 17 years after the hit sitcom ended

It’s been 17 years since the last episode of Friends, said Ed Power in The Daily Telegraph, and though the cast couldn’t be persuaded to make a sequel, the demand to see them together again has been overwhelming. The result is this “chuckling Frankenstein” of a show: part This Is Your Life, part documentary, part interview, it shows the stars meeting up on the old set, reminiscing and greeting a “drizzle” of special guests. It’s nostalgia served up by the shovelful.

It’s a mixed bag, agreed Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, but there’s a thrill in seeing the actors chat and play off each other with an “easy, unfakeable” camaraderie. Their exchanges go deeper than anything the interviewer, James Corden, elicits from them, said Adam White in The Independent, who gave the reunion a four star rating. It’s interesting, too, to learn of their differing relationships with the series: while Jennifer Aniston seems to have “the deepest emotional attachment”, Lisa Kudrow seems, “hilariously”, barely to have watched it.

Corden’s interview felt “peripheral” among the other elements of the show, wrote James Poniewozik for The New York Times. The best moments of this special episode are when it “gets out of the cast’s way and shows us what drew us to them, and them to each other”. The six cast members are bound by what can only be described as “an otherworldly experience”, and their reunion was comparable to an “astronaut crew” looking back on their time in space together.

Generally the critics seemed to agree that despite being cheesy and at times self-indulgent, the special episode was surprisingly poignant. “Was Friends: The Reunion over-sentimental, clichéd and drawn out,” asked Emily Baker in The i Paper. Absolutely – “but it was also the happiest two hours of television in recent memory”.

Friends: The Reunion was filmed on the original 24 soundstage on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Los Angeles. According to Variety, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer made at least $2.5m each for taking part in the special. It was initially scheduled to air in May 2020, but filming was delayed until March due to the pandemic. 

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