Monday, May 20, 2024

The “Friends” Reunion on HBO Max Will Drop at 3AM And You’d Better Be Asleep Then


Set your alarm clocks for 3am Eastern time. Not to watch the lunar eclipse or blood moon. No! To watch the “Friends” reunion.

I will be sound asleep.

HBO is dropping the special at 3am Eastern in the US. I expect most of the country will be tucked in and snoring, although some on the West Coast could stay up til midnight and watch the hour plus special.

There are loads of guest stars in this special Q&A show hosted by James Corden. Lady Gaga is really singing “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow.

Matthew Perry will explain why he’s slurring words in the trailer. They say it’s because he had dental work.

I doubt anyone will discuss why the six original castmates plus all these others finally deigned to have a reunion: money. Money, money, money. HBO Max paid a zillion dollars for the rights to the “Friends” reruns.

The main cast continues to reap huge benefits from the showings, so much so that except for Jennifer Aniston, none of them has really worked in a major way since then. Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and Courteney Cox have had semi-successful series. David Schwimmer is semi-retired. Only Aniston has worked steadily and without fail.

And the extras who are on tonight? Elliot Gould and Christina Pickles? The guy who played Gunther? And it turned out that Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s annoying girlfriend Janice with the nasal accent is the daughter of a billionaire in real life. So she’s been just fine.

I always thought “Friends” was second class “Seinfeld.” The episodes rarely resolve. They always end on ellipses, no laughs, a sort of “Huh?” What worked was the chemistry among the six cast members. From Joey and Chandler’s friendship, Ross’s endless pursuit of Rachel (very Heartbreak Kid), Monica’s fastidiousness, and Phoebe’s kooky other world take on things, you came to appreciate the inner workings of their connections.

But unlike “Seinfeld,” the show wasn’t clever. It was repetitive. It was mundane. The biggest shock in ten years was Monica waking up with Chandler in her bed. You thought they were brother and sister.

Many things rankled. Why did Monica and Ross’s mother have an English accent? Was it ever explained? Was Rachel Jewish? (Her first fiancee, Barry the dentist, certainly was supposed to be.) Was anyone Jewish? The Gellers? “Friends” featured Jewish actors Schwimmer and Kudrow, Elliot Gould as Schwimmer’s father, but it was never mentioned. Also completely ignored over the years was Chandler see sawing weight. Emaciated one season, huge the next. None of his “Friends” ever seemed concerned.

But I digress. Viewers have made these people, like the “Sex and the City” characters, into their own creations. Why no scripted reunion? Because to confront that reality, 25 years later, would break the illusion that they are still hanging out. Not at Central Perk, but at the satellite version ins suburban Armonk. Monica has a catering company, Chandler’s been though rehab a few times, Ross and Rachel divorced because he thought they were “on a break,” Joey is a regular on “Days of our Lives,” Phoebe is the biggest success, running a New Age emporium in Hudson, New York.

There, now you know.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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