Almost 20 years back, I remember a college friend of mine telling me rather excitedly, “If you haven’t watched the Friends series, you haven’t watched anything at all!” Curiosity piqued, I binge-watched Friends and guess what, I was hooked… line and sinker. Friends became my ‘comfort go-to series’, each time, I had problems with my boyfriend, got my heart broken or in times of ecstatic happiness or sadness, it was always there with me — faithful and loyal.
I bonded with the cast members — the gorgeous fashionable Rachel who ran away on her wedding day to find a life for herself, OCD hit Monica — a chef who had complexes about herself; airy head, socially aware vegetarian Phoebe who supported environment causes, mostly out-of-work actor Joey — a ladies’ man who kept count of his conquests; geeky scientist at the museum Dr Ross — divorced with a son and an ex-wife who had turned lesbian, and the witty Chandler who coped with wry humour through life-changing challenges including when his dad becoming a woman and an infuriating mom who kept popping up. In fact, I was the fifth couch potato hanger-on ‘friend’ binger they never knew about.
Quirky, non-judgmental and fun, Friends became a part of my life as like millions of others across the world. I would copy Rachel’s hairstyles or ape Phoebe’s mannerism each time I was feeling quirky. The chilled-out lingo of Ross, Joey or Chandler in the series became a part of my growing up ‘awkward’ stage. But damn, I was a die-hard Friends fan, and everybody knew it.
Cut to two decades plus later: I’m still binging on Friends. Thanks to Netflix, the entire 10 seasons of this series can be watched without going through the agony of the many commercial breaks that used to get me all exasperated during my first spell of watching the series.
How did Friends end up being so iconic?
Friends was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman with an ensemble cast starring Courtney Cox [Monica], Lisa Kudrow [Phoebe], Jennifer Aniston [Rachel], David Schwimmer [Ross], Matt LeBlanc [Joey Tribbiani] and Mathew Perry [Chandler]. The story was about six friends in their 20s who stayed in Manhattan, New York City. Originally, the creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman decided to call it Insomnia Café, then after zillions of script changes and rewrites, it became Six of One and Friends Like Us.
Until they finally settled on the title Friends, which was first aired on September 22, 1994 and lasted for ten seasons till May 4, 2004. At first, Friends got a pretty lukewarm reaction until by the middle of the first season, it suddenly went viral and was popular with every youngster who aspired to be like Ross, Joey, Chandler, Rachel, Monica or Phoebe. The theme of the show was simple: Friends stick to each other no matter what, and in Friends, Joey, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Ross and Phoebe were there for each other through heartbreaks, affairs, sadness or mistakes. When Monica fell in love with a man twice her age, her friends instead of being judgmental, were supportive. When Ross and Rachel fell in love, broke up and then patched up, the friends did not take sides but instead stood by them throughout. Perhaps, that touched a chord with the viewers and the popularity of the series spread like wildfire. The cast went on to become superstars and ended up becoming Hollywood stars though in this avatar, they did not get as much popularity as they did in the Friends series.
Recently, HBO MAX announced that Friends: The Reunion will drop on their platform on May 27, 2021, and ecstatic fans of the series including me rejoiced world over. It would be fab to watch Ross, Chandler, Monica, Rachel and Joey again. But this time, the spokesperson announced, it will not be like an episode of Friends but more like a special show showcasing the original cast revisiting the show again. Furthermore, Friends: The Reunion will be unscripted and will have the cast play a trivia game, which was done in Season 4. It will feature a lot of special guests including David Beckham, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Cindy Crawford, Tom Selleck, and more.
The show was originally supposed to be filmed in February 2020, but was delayed innumerable times thanks to the pandemic. The filming started only in April this year.
The ensemble cast reunited again at the same venue – Stage 24 on the Warner Bros Studio lot in Burbank where the show was originally shot. The cast was obviously emotional. Jennifer Aniston exclaimed, “Oh God, how are we going to get through this alive without just crying our faces off.” Matt LeBlanc, however, averred, “It’s funny, when we do get together, it’s like no time has passed. We pick up right where we left off.” Courtney Cox too remarked emotionally that when she stepped into Monica’s apartment, she was flooded with “10 years of irreplaceable memories.”
Indeed, Friends: The Reunion will be an emotional rollercoaster for the fans including me too. Indeed, it’s so good to see my ‘Friends’ back!
(Sumita Chakraborty is a 44-year-old who was obsessed with Friends so much that she used to copy their mannerisms and styles! For her, Friends: The Reunion is a nostalgic trip back to her growing up years.)