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Monday, June 14, 2021

Explained: Why there is so much hype around the Friends reunion

Friends Reunion: The story of six friends — Ross, Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Joey and Phoebe — who lived together in apartments that faced each other in New York, has never really gone out of circulation.

Written by Ektaa Malik , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 2, 2021 1:59:58 pm
friends reunion, friends reunion episode, friends reunion in india, friends reunion review, friends reunion zee5, friends reunion zee5, friends reunion india release, friends reunion episodes, friends reunion newsA scene from the 'Friends' reunion special. (Terence Patrick/HBO Max via AP)

Today is the day that many have been waiting for the last 17 years.

It was on May 6, 2004, the finale episode, titled quite aptly, ‘ The Last One’, of the famous sitcom Friends was aired. On the day, an entire generation bid adieu to a purple living room, a group of six friends, and an entire lexicon of ‘Friends-specific’ pop-cultural references.

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The sitcom, which kicked off in September 1994, is easily one of the most popular English sitcoms in the world. The story of six friends — Ross, Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Joey and Phoebe — who lived together in apartments that faced each other in New York, has never really gone out of circulation. Today, the six have come back for a reboot, and it’s an overload of nostalgia. We explain the hype and anticipation around it.

Friends, circa 1994

The show, being developed by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, had been in the works with the initial title of Insomnia Cafe. The working title shifted to ‘Six Of One’, and also ‘Friends like Us’, with eventually the series being named ‘Friends’.

The premise of the show was pretty simple: ‘The trials and tribulations of six single friends who live in an apartment complex in the West Village in New York. The standout feature of the show was the very distinctive, defined personalities of the main cast. Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) was a slightly spoilt, protected rich girl who knew her fashion; Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) was the resident nerd of the gang, armed with a PhD and an equal amount of neediness and insecurity; Monica Geller (Courtney Cox), Ross’s sister, a chef by training, a very, uptight cleanliness freak and a people-pleaser to boot; Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), Ross’s college roommate and neighbour of Monica’s, is known for his witty sarcasm and incapability to form deep romantic relationships; Joey Tribbiani (Matt Le Blanc), a struggling actor, who is kind of slow, but is extremely good-natured and Phoebe Buffet (Lisa Kudrow), the ‘weirdo’ of the group, who believes in ‘auras’ and in communing with the dead, is the former roommate of Monica’s and is a masseuse by profession. We were introduced to the gang in the episode named ‘Pilot’, and right from its debut, the show received favourable ratings. In ten years and 236 episodes, Friends became a blockbuster show.

The Popular Clique

The antics, quirks and distinct personality traits of the main cast were one of the most well-liked aspects of the show. The audience globally connected with this motley gang, who lived together and would drink coffee together at the corner coffee shop. Over ten years, the characters also had their respective arcs, and for the many in the audience it was a reflection of their own lives. Rachel goes on to become a mother and hold quite a successful position in the fashion industry; Chandler overcomes his fear of intimacy and ‘father issues’, and has his own family, and Phoebe finds a partner in Mike (Paul Rudd) who likes her kind of ‘weird’. Added to all this, was the insane chemistry that the cast shared. It was all very real and believable, the affection and love that the six actors brought to the screen. The world wanted to have such friends, who celebrated festivals together, helped move houses and also had each other’s backs. The cast, over the years, has maintained that they have remained friends with each other, and that’s a happy ending that the world can get behind.

The World’s Best Friends

Culturally speaking, the show had a huge impact on the world. There are numerous ‘Central Perks’ that have cropped up all over the world, — imitating the name of the coffee shop where the six friends hung out. In India itself, there are at least six Friends-inspired cafes. An Iranian businessman has even started a Central Perk coffee shop franchise, spread across 32 countries. Joey’s catchphrase, ‘How You Doin’ has been following the actor ever since. Actor Matt Le Blanc is asked to repeat it on almost every TV appearance he makes. There are innumerable quizzes on Buzzfeed and similar websites asking ‘Which FRIENDS character are you’?

The characters are now themselves certified genres that are a go-to global references. Any neatness obsessed person in a group of friends is called ‘Monica’ whereas the quirky one is automatically labelled ‘Phoebe’. ’The layered haircut sported by Jennifer Aniston on the show has been christened ‘The Rachel’ and has been emulated by millions over the world. Till date, the show remains extremely popular, and is often on the top ten ‘most viewed’ list of Netflix, where it is currently streaming. The show also spawned a subculture within Hollywood, where several other shows started to explore the genre of ‘friends living together’. We started seeing more such story lines with shows like How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, New Girl and Happy Endings.

Teething Troubles

Over the years, there has been some criticism around the all-white cast of the show. The writers tried to address it by casting a black actor Aisha Tyler as Charlie Wheeler, a fellow palaeontologist, who dates Ross, in season 10. But the lack of diversity on the show is something that is often talked about. The backstory of Monica — her being fat as a teenager — has often been criticised and the show writers have been called up for it in the light of the ‘body positive’ movement.

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The plans for FRIENDS reunion had been in the works for a while, spearheaded by Warner Bros. The reunion finally was confirmed for HBO, as an ‘unscripted show’ titled ‘The One Where They Get Back Together’. The show was supposed to air last year, but due to the pandemic, it was scheduled for May 27, 2021.In a two-minute trailer that has gone viral, we see the cast reminisce about their time on the show, and also reveal the answers to some old questions, the most pertinent being ‘Were Ross and Rachel on a break?. The show will stream on Zee5 in India today. It will have the original six, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc on Stage 24 of the Warner Bros studio — the name stage where FRIENDS was shot — and it will be hosted by James Corden. Other special guests like David Beckham, Lady Gaga, Kit Harrington, Justin Beiber, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Selleck are also scheduled to make an appearance.

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