If the phrase “I’ll be there for you” is as much a song cue as an affirmation, you probably watched the recently released Friends reunion. And you probably have an opinion on whether or not there could be any better host than James Corden and, if you’re like my viewing companion and I, you probably did some dishing on who did and did not have work done.
But for all of us old enough to have watched the show, whether during its 1994 – 2014 run or more recently, in syndication, watching the actors come together -- all in the same room again again for the first time the show wrapped seven years ago -- was must-see TV.
During the reunion, creators David Crane and Marta Kaufman described their vision of the series as a show about the time in our lives when our friends are our family. While the relationships among the characters clearly reflected that, so, too, did the relationships among the cast. During their rise to fame, there were no divas. They stuck together, with some of the cast members taking pay cuts so that each of the six leads was paid the same per episode, a number that rose to an astronomical $1,000,000 per episode per actor in the final two seasons.
I loved watching these actors -- whose post-series lives have led them to various levels of success, failure and personal struggle -- come together again. The familiarity, the camaraderie and the joy of seeing one another was clear in every interaction. So much so, in fact, that the few non-Friends cameos felt more intrusive than welcome, particularly when they were allowed to upstage the people we’d tuned in to see. (Yes, I mean you, Lady Gaga).
For Friends fans, this reunion was a long time coming, but its timing was perfect. As COVID slowly releases its terrifying grip, we’re all anxious to see our friends/family again. We hope these more personal reunions come without awkwardness – that we, too, can pick up where we left off, sharing stories, memories and laughter as though no time has passed. That we can sit in familiar settings, noticing small details (was that wall always purple?) and navigating the gap between past and present as smoothly as the integrated table read/episode clips that were the best part of the show. That more than anything else, like the Friends cast, we’ll simply be happy to be in the same space again.
All of us have had friends who are family. Friends was about finding not just family but ourselves as well, and, like those characters, our families-by-choice weave threads into the tapestry of our identity. Their presence lingers – for better (Chandler’s jokes) or worse (Janice’s laugh) – long after we’ve gone our separate ways. For those who came of age alongside Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross and their myriad friends, reunions this sweet aren’t simply an opportunity to see one another again, but a chance to recapture a piece of ourselves.