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"Friends: The Reunion" is now streaming on HBO MAX.

If you were alive in the 90s, or even if you were too young to truly understand what the show was, you knew “Friends”. The cast was on the cover of virtually every magazine in existence at the time, and was seen by an average of 25 million people per episode – launching it into the stratosphere of popular television and pop culture immortality.

 “Friends” was such a cultural juggernaut that entire lives were scheduled around the airing of episodes, hairstyles were defined by it and entire conversations revolved around which character you reminded your actual friends of.

A little more than 17 years after the series finale aired on May 6, 2004 – and answered the ongoing ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ story arc of Ross and Rachel – the cast reunited for only the second time since, and reminisced about the show and the family that was created from it. 

Thankfully, they invited cameras along for the ride. 

While “Friends: The Reunion” lives on an uneven ground of contrived  interactions (surprise guests, fashion shows, trivia games) and true moments of brilliance (the cast reading old scripts, and seeing the stage meticulously rebuilt), the overall effect ultimately works because, honestly, anyone tuning in to watch this show is looking for the nostalgia that “Friends: The Reunion” promises to stir. 

And if you’re looking for nostalgia, you’ve come to the right place. 

Any “Friends” super-fan will love every second of this nearly two hour event because nearly every fan thinks of these characters as their own friends or family. For a whole generation that grew up watching as these characters “grew” during the course of 10 seasons, being able to witness them all come together again is almost worth the 17-year wait. 

When Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer all reunite and interact with each other, albeit slightly older than we remember them, that’s when the reunion show truly shines. Witnessing their connection that is obviously just as strong now as it was all those years ago defines why this show was such a success in the first place. The chemistry between these six actors is undeniable. 

Diving deeper, one standout section of the reunion was the interviews with the original show’s creators, Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, where they reminisce about the journey of casting “Friends”, and finding the perfect actors to fill the roles.  Other standout moments were interviews with international fans explaining how the show helped them get through tough times in their life, and how much the show still means to them. 

Unfortunately, a few weaker moments are sprinkled throughout, including surprise appearances by celebrities that have nothing to do with the show, such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber (why?). While most of the James Corden hosted show was filmed in April in front of a live audience full of fans and former show regulars the “The Reunion” works best when it is just the six of them on the couch remembering moments from the show, or divulging secrets that somehow remained so this long.

 It is amazing how easily they all slip back into their characters during table reads of old scripts from the show,  as if no time has passed between them. But isn’t that how it really is when old friends see each other for the first time in years? Once the awkwardness subsides, and the initial shock melts away, it feels as though nothing has changed.

The true magic of “Friends” is that simple, yet important ingredient. While watching these four people interact, in character or in real life, it’s undeniable – they truly are F.r.i.e.n.d.s.

“Friends: The Reunion” is out now on HBO MAX, along with all 10 seasons of the original series. 

•jwillden@mysoutex.com•

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