Spoiler alert! The following contains details from “Friends: The Reunion,” now streaming on HBO Max.
“Friends: The Reunion” has arrived on HBO Max, and to borrow a phrase from Rachel Green, the news is “kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic,” in the best sense.
The 105-minute special reassembles the cast of the acclaimed NBC comedy for only the second time since the show’s 2004 finale.
Over 10 seasons, audiences fell in love with a group of young New Yorkers: the fashionable and freshly financially independent Rachel (Jennifer Aniston); quirky massage therapist/singer/songwriter Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow); competitive neat freak Monica Geller (Courteney Cox); her nerdy paleontologist brother Ross Geller (David Schwimmer); the sarcastic Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry); and ladies’ man Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), aka Mr. “How you doin’?”
The reunion was scheduled to coincide with last May’s launch of the HBO Max streaming service, and the series’ move from Netflix, but the global pandemic delayed plans.
The delayed reunion is a mix of the cast reminiscing among themselves, fielding questions from “Late Late Show” host James Corden, reading show scripts and playing trivia, with clips and appearances by celebrity fans, including Lady Gaga, Mindy Kaling, BTS and David Beckham. Series guest stars such as Reese Witherspoon (who played Rachel’s sister Jill), Tom Selleck (Monica’s ex Richard Burke) and Maggie Wheeler (“Oh my gawd” Janice) join the fun.
Could we be any happier? No! And while we could write 18 pages front and back about all the things we loved, here are some of the special’s best moments (in no particular order).
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Schwimmer’s ‘major crush’ on Aniston
An IRL Ross and Rachel? Schwimmer reveals that, during the early days of filming, Aniston caught his eye. “The first season I had a major crush on Jen,” he says, which she affirms “was reciprocated.” “But it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship,” he adds, “and we never crossed that boundary.”
LeBlanc gives viewers a moment of hope that something more happened between the two when he calls B.S. But shortly afterward, he admits he’s just joking.
Aniston recalls telling Schwimmer once “‘It’s gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is gonna be on national television.’ Sure enough, first time we kissed was in that coffee shop. So we just channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.”
“It was a situation that we couldn’t do anything about,” Schwimmer says.
“How great, though, ultimately,” Cox reasons. “Cause if you had, and it didn’t work out it,” she says, it wouldn’t have “probably been as great.”
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Kudrow, Lady Gaga’s ‘Smelly Cat’ duet
Mother Monster stops by Central Perk and asks to join Kudrow’s performance of Phoebe’s hit, “Smelly Cat,” saying it’s one of her “favorite songs.”
Gaga, dressed in a Phoebe-inspired ensemble, belts out the lyrics, a cover that Kudrow praises as “really, really good.” As the two play their guitars and sing the tune about the foul-smelling feline, they’re joined by a six-person choir.
“I still think it’s better when it’s just me,” Kudrow quietly teases.
“It is,” Gaga assures her.
“Oh, you heard it?” Kudrow says with a chuckle.
Taking no offense, Gaga extends her appreciation to Kudrow for her portrayal of such a unique character.
“Thank you so much for being the person for all of us on ‘Friends’ that was the – I don’t know if this is the right way to say it – but the different one, or the one that was really herself,” she says.
“Thank you, and thanks for carrying it along,” Kudrow responds. “I’m going to start crying.”
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Schwimmer seethes over Marcel
Schwimmer resents the capuchin monkey who played Ross’ pet Marcel early on for missing its marks and lengthening shoots.
“What inevitably began to happen was we would all have choreographed bits timed out, and it would get messed up because the monkey didn’t do its job right,” he says, making his co-stars giggle. “We’d have to reset, we’d have to go again ’cause the monkey didn’t get it right.”
“David’s so angry, still,” Aniston teases.
To make matters worse, Schwimmer says the monkey’s trainer fed the animal live grubs between takes, while the monkey sat on the actor’s shoulder.
“So I’d have monkey, grubby hands all over,” he says, “and it was time for Marcel to… (expletive) off!”
LeBlanc’s painful on-set injury
While shooting Season 3 episode “The One Where No One’s Ready” (a favorite of David Beckham’s), LeBlanc’s shoulder came out of its socket. Cameras were rolling when LeBlanc’s Joey hurried to lay claim to a chair in Monica’s apartment that he and Chandler were fighting over. LeBlanc tripped, caught himself, sat in the chair and began holding his left shoulder. He was taken to the hospital and fitted with a sling, which was written into the show. Once he healed, shooting for “The One Where No One’s Ready” resumed.
It turns out this was the only episode where the cast didn’t have a pre-show huddle. After that incident, Kudrow says the group always huddled before filming, at LeBlanc’s insistence.
That injury is not the only one LeBlanc recalls. He also reveals that before a “Friends” auditioncallback he went drinking with a pal and later, while blacked out, hit his nose on a toilet.
He went in for the audition with “a big, ugly scab” on his nose that series co-creator Marta Kauffman asked about. LeBlanc says he’s answered honestly, and still booked the gig. As Joey would say, the rest is a “moo point.” (“It’s like a cow’s opinion, it just doesn’t matter.”)
An unbeliebable fashion show
Some of the most outrageous costumes from the series are paraded down the runway during a fashion show segment with A-list models. Cara Delevingne dons Rachel’s pink bridesmaid dress from her former fiancé’s wedding with its skirt tucked into red underpants, as accidentally happened to Rachel.
Cindy Crawford tries to cool down in Ross’ steamy black leather pants, which got him into quite a pickle. Justin Bieber floors the cast in Ross’ unrecognizable Halloween costume Sputnik as he danced down the runway.
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that before Delevingne stomps down the catwalk as the Holiday Armadillo, LeBlanc disappears from the stage. That’s because he needed to slip into all of Chandler’s clothes as a surprise to his castmates. The icing on the cake (which Joey would devour alone because Joey doesn’t share food)? The lunges LeBlanc did on the runway, as Joey did in the original episode.
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