After ten seasons, 17 years apart, and a significant delay due to a certain global pandemic, Friends: The Reunion is at last streaming on HBO Max.
The feature-length special reunites the cast of beloved sitcom Friends and fondly looks back on the series through nostalgia-tinted goggles. It’s been a long time in the works, but now that it’s finally out we can definitively say that it was worth the wait ... for the most part.
- How to watch the Friends Reunion online right now
- Check out our HBO Max review
- Plus: Amazon buys MGM for $8.4 billion — what it means for James Bond and you
While we certainly had our reservations early on, especially after a roster of seemingly random guest stars was announced, the tear-jerking trailer won us over. The episode hits all the right notes and will turn even casual fans of the show into a blubbering mess by the time the first few chords of the iconic theme song begin to play.
It might not be the 11th season or full movie that some fans have been demanding pretty much since the show concluded in 2004, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Friends Reunion was a stroll down memory lane for the Central Perk six and the television equivalent of a warm hug for longtime fans — something we’ve all needed after the difficult last year.
There were plenty of parts that stood out. From the emotional initial reunion on the reconstructed set to David Schwimmer’s revelation that he really hated working with that monkey Marcel. Below we’ve picked out the very best moments from the Friends Reunion, as well as a couple of sequences that unfortunately didn’t quite work.
Best: The introduction
Nailing the opening was always going to be key. After all, seeing the entire cast back on our screens after more than a decade and a half is a momentous occasion.
The special begins with David Schwimmer walking into the Warner Bros sound stage where the show was filmed and onto fully recreated sets. It’s not hard to get a little misty-eyed as you watch him slowly wander around, picking up various set-dressing trinkets and reminisce.
One by one, Schwimmer is joined by the other cast members until all six of them are standing in the apartment set together. Jennifer Aniston even asks Matthew Perry (who is the last to arrive) “could you BE anymore late?” It was a remarkably understated introduction for such an anticipated television event, but it felt intimate in the best way possible.
Best: The quiz
Riffing off the classic episode from season 4, The One with the Embryos, one of the best segments of the Friends Reunion saw the cast partake in a boys vs girls quiz. Admittedly, the cast did play pretty fast and loose with the points scoring system.
The questions asked weren’t ones that would stump a superfan, but watching Courteney Cox get extremely invested in the competition in classic Monica style was arguable the whole special's single best moment.
The segment was also used to bring back Joey’s identical hand twin (with a cameo from actor Thomas Lennon) which was a great throwback to one of the show’s most ridiculous gags.
Worst: Pointless celebrity interviews
We were worried about the lengthy list of confirmed celebrity appearances prior to the reunions airing. And that was for good reason, it turns out.
While a couple of the A-lister cameos were well done, Lady Gaga popping up to sing Smelly Cat with Lisa Kudrow being the highlight, others felt like pointless filler. Was anyone desperate for David Beckham to reveal that he watches Friends when he feels sad in hotel rooms? Or that Mindy Kaling really likes the show’s physical comedy? Or that Kit Harington’s favorite moment is the legendary "pivot!" scene?
These talking-head interviews took up time that could have been spent with the main sixsome or been dedicated to the show’s large supporting cast who were often glossed over.
Best: The supporting cast cameos
Speaking of the supporting cast, the Friends Reunion featured appearances from not just the main six but also several additional cast members including James Michael Tyler (who portrayed Central Perk manager Gunther) and even a pre-recorded segment with Reece Witherspoon (who played Rachel’s bratty sister, Jill).
The real highlight came when it was revealed that Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles, who played Ross and Monica’s parents Jack and Judy Geller, were sat in the socially distanced audience. Both acted as sort of on-set parents to the cast during filming, and it was a real treat they were able to be included.
The only disappointment here was that much of the supporting cast members who did feature got only a couple of seconds to talk before vanishing never to be seen again. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai got more screen time than Tyler (who features in all 10 seasons) which is a pretty weird choice.
Best: The Bright, Kauffman and Crane interviews
While the six main cast members are very much the face of the show, its creators deserve just as much credit for crafting one of television’s most beloved sitcoms.
Interspersed with the live interview sections (hosted by a mercifully subdued James Cordon), and the cast wandering around the rebuilt sets, were talking head clips featuring creators Marta Kauffman, Kevin Bright, and David Crane.
During these sections, we got an insight into the tricky task of casting the leads, as well as why Friends had to end when it did and the very good reason as to why another season or the long-rumored full feature wouldn’t quite work.
The information gleaned in these sections might not be all-new, and diehard fans will likely have heard it all before, but it was appreciated that the wealth of talent behind the cameras also got a chance to reflect on the series.
Best: The table read
Recreating a full episode or staging an entire scene probably would have felt a little uncanny, but getting the six cast members to perform an in-character table read was a stroke of genius.
Lisa Kudrow in particular seemed to effortlessly fall back into playing Phoebe, and Matt LeBlanc proved that he still has impeccable comedic timing. It’s a shame this part of the special wasn’t significantly longer as it really distilled the essence of what fans wanted from this reunion episode.
If the cast ever fancy doing some form of Friends live show where they table read a full episode on stage, I’d pay good money to see.
Worst: The fashion show
Having a couple of famous faces parade down a catwalk in iconic outfits from the show, including Ross’ Spudnik Halloween costume and Rachel’s garish pink Bridesmaid dress, seems a cute idea on paper.
Placing it at practically the very end of the special was an odd decision, to say the least. This segment really killed the pacing at a crucial moment where the Friends Reunion should have been reaching an emotional crescendo.
I guess Justin Bieber in a potato costume was sort of funny, but the joke lost its luster by the time he’d reach even halfway up the catwalk. His awkward walk back down was painful. This segment should have been shown far earlier in the episode and been trimmed to a third of the length.
- Read next: The best streaming devices, ranked