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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The one with the ‘Friends’ reunion

Get ready to cry over America’s most iconic sitcom, 17 years later.
(HBO Max/Friends: The Reunion)

Oh. My. God. The wait is finally over. 

May 27, HBO Max released the highly anticipated reunion of the iconic sextet of actors that helped define a generation. “Friends” enthusiasts worldwide were on the edge of their seats to witness Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer in all their glory gathered together in the same room for the first time in almost 17 long years. 

“Friends” first premiered on NBC in 1994 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Over the span of ten seasons, the show amassed millions of loyal fans and a number of cinema awards, topped off by a finale that attracted over 51 million viewers. Today, its production company Warner Bros. still brings in approximately $1 billion in revenue annually from the show alone.

The unscripted reunion segment took place at the original set at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif. and commenced with each mesmerized cast member walking onto the set one by one.

A star-struck Schwimmer appeared first, awed by the accurate renderings of the original set, including the purple walls, the foosball table and even the photo frame over the peephole. Everything was recreated down to the smallest details under the guidance of the co-creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman and David Crane. 

Matt LeBlanc shares a warm embrace with Lisa Kudrow when the reunion special begins. Screenshot by Stanley Zhao (HBO Max/Friends: The Reunion)

As each cast member followed suit, we couldn’t help but shed a happy tear as they shared warm hugs and reminisced on tender memories. LeBlanc fondly remembered one particular prank he played on Cox. 

“You had this big speech and you were struggling with it all week long—and you wrote it on the table. I didn’t know that that’s what you did, and I saw it and I asked you and you told me to mind my own business. So when you weren’t looking, I erased it before we shot,” LeBlanc recalled as he took a napkin to wipe a tear from Cox’s eye.



We dare to speak on behalf of all “Friends” fanatics in that we often wonder how each member was casted by show creators Marta Kauffman, David Crane and executive producer Keven Bright. But let’s face it: the show wouldn’t be the same with any other actor or actress having portrayed each character. No one could portray Gunther with the same sophistication as James Tyler Michael or capture the charm of Janice like Maggie Wheeler. 

The reunion reveals that David Schwimmer was the first to be recruited onto the “Friends” cast to play Ross Geller, the self-proclaimed academic of the gang. Kauffman admitted that Schwimmer was a challenging actor to hire because he had given up on television entirely and wanted to consign himself to theaters—but with a touch of ingenuity and several gift baskets, Schwimmer was on board. 

Next up was Lisa Kudrow, who astounded the show’s producers beyond measure. Her whimsical portrayal of Ursula the waitress in the sitcom “Mad About You” also earned her brownie points. 

Then came a dry spell. More than two and a half months passed without another character being cast. Crane, Kauffman and Bright reflected on how finding an actor to play Joey Tribbiani was more difficult than anticipated. 

“We saw a lot of guys who you believe were actors, guys who liked women, but they weren’t funny,” Crane said. “Then Matt came in and suddenly on him, the lines felt funny.” 

Thus, with $11 in his pocket and not an awful lot of acting experience under his belt, Matt LeBlanc became the Joey we all grew to love and cherish. 

Maggie Wheeler makes a special appearance in “Friends: The Reunion.” Screenshot by Stanley Zhao (HBO Max/Friends: The Reunion)

However, the ensemble as we know it was almost threatened by an over-motivated Cox who almost played Rachel Green. In the reunion interview, the casting directors admitted that they saw Cox as more of a Rachel at the time. However, Cox made a case for herself that she identifies as more of a Monica. We’re glad that she did. 

But we can’t have our Monica without her hubby Chandler. This character was meant to be easy for casting, because according to Crane, “he’s got jokes. He’s got, like, actual real jokes.” Fortunately for us, Perry was there to bring the character into the limelight. There was just one problem: he was already signed for another show called “L.A.X. 2194,” a sitcom about baggage handlers who sort out luggage for aliens at the Los Angeles airport. 

Yeah, it sounds weird, but thankfully Perry was able to extricate himself to play the Chandler we all know and love. 

The last character to be cast was Rachel Green. A multifaceted figure, Rachel teeters on the fine line between snobbishness and television sweetheart, which is no easy task. Luckily, they found hope in Aniston. 

“Jennifer had this warmth and sincerity and genuineness about her, where she just made you feel okay about everything else Rachel was that you might have passed judgement on,” Bright said.



Honestly, HBO could have streamed a two-hour long reunion consisting solely of bloopers and we still would have been content. Over the course of a decade-long production, “Friends” was bound to have its own share of funny mishaps and humorous shenanigans, and fans were not disappointed. Interspersed throughout the reunion, we couldn’t help but giggle at Kudrow’s infectious laugh, Perry’s sarcastic quips and LeBlanc’s clumsy missteps. But while watching the reunion, we found out that these genius moments almost always came unintentionally.  

For instance, we discover that Janice’s memorable nasally laugh was born from her ill-stifled laughter at Perry’s character. 

“Matthew Perry is so funny,” Wheeler said. “And the minute I set eyes on him and he opened his mouth, I thought ‘oh god, I’m gonna lose it, I’m gonna crack up.’”

But the set wasn’t always all laughs and giggles. When “The One Where No One Was Ready” was being filmed, Matt LeBlanc dislocated his shoulder when his character Joey competed with Chandler for the singular armchair. What was intended to be the easiest episode to film became the most complicated because Matt had to be taken to the hospital for medical care. However, we gotta give it up to the writers for writing Matt’s arm sling into the show. 

Perhaps even more astonishing is the unintended romantic relationship between Chandler and Monica. 

“The original plan was they would sleep together in London,” Crane said. “It was a brief thing and we’d have some fun with it afterward as they’re both like ‘oh my god, what did we do?”

In this particular example, the writers gauged the audience’s response to the script. When the live audience first saw Chandler and Monica in bed together, they erupted in rapturous applause. 

“The way the audience reacted, we realized there’s more to this—and we need to pay attention,” Kauffman said.


Lady Gaga sings “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow. Screenshot by Stanley Zhao (HBO Max/Friends: The Reunion)


With over fifteen A-list guest stars, the reunion is far from the intimate gathering that some fans had hoped for. What was once an intime recount of the most memorable moments on the show quickly turned into a way for the showrunners to squeeze in extra guest star cameos. Over the course of the reunion special, various celebrity guests including Mindy Kaling, Cindy Crawford, Reese Witherspoon and even the entire K-pop band BTS made a brief appearance to share what their favorite “Friends” episodes are. While these cameos were fun, it’s safe to say that diehard “Friends” fans would have preferred a visit from Paul Rudd (Phoebe’s eventual hubby Mike) or Cole Sprouse (Ross’s son Ben) rather than Justin Bieber strutting down the runway as a potato or David Beckham revealing that he’s a “Monica.” We also think it wouldn’t have been too much to ask for supplementary characters like Richard Burke or Gunther to have been given more screen time. They are, afterall, just as important in contributing to the development of the six main characters. 

Lady Gaga also made an appearance to sing “Smelly Cat” with Lisa Kudrow. At the end of the grandiose duet, Kudrow jokes, “I still think it’s better when it’s just me.” We couldn’t agree more!



While there were tons of great moments in the reunion, there were also a few stumbles. In his cringiest performance since “Cats,” British talk show host James Corden interviewed the stars in front of the iconic “Friends” fountain. Having virtually no connection to the show, Corden threw out surface-level questions—such as “Who had the loudest laugh?” and “Were Ross and Rachel on a break?”—which inevitably fell flat.

The “Friends” cast sits down for an interview with talk show host James Corden in front of the fountain filmed in every episode. Screenshot by Stanley Zhao (HBO Max/Friends: The Reunion)

There were awkward moments among the cast as well. Throughout the reunion, the principal cast members tried to pivot away from serious conversations, opting for a more lighthearted vibe. At one point during the reunion, Perry revealed his struggles with the pressure of filming, even stating that he felt like he “was going to die” if the live studio audience did not laugh. “And it’s not healthy, for sure.”

This candid revelation took Perry’s co-stars by surprise. After a moment of awkwardness, Kudrow offered, “I don’t remember you ever saying that.” The show then quickly transitioned into a discussion of Chandler and Monica’s budding romance.

In an admirable attempt to keep the show true to its original form, a portion of the reunion was filmed in front of a live audience. Given the stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, however, the masked and socially distanced audience lacked the giddiness of the original series.

Despite these cringeworthy moments, “Friends: The Reunion” is definitely a must-watch for ardent “Friends” fans. The warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia enveloped us as we laughed at Schwimmer’s dramatic recount of Marcel the monkey eating grubs, Kudrow’s Phoebe-like reaction to a bug in her hair and LeBlanc lunging in ALL of Chandler’s clothes. 

And then we got the biggest bombshell in television history.  

Near the end of the two-hour special, Schwimmer and Aniston revealed that they harbored a mutual crush during the early years of filming. After performing a tear-jerking table read from “The One Where Ross Finds Out,” the on-screen couple delved deeper into their off-screen romance. 

“When we had breaks from rehearsal, there were moments when we would cuddle and fall asleep on the couch,” Schwimmer recalled.  

“I remember saying one time to David, ‘It’s gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is going to be on national television,’” Aniston chimed in. “Sure enough, the first time we kissed was in that coffee shop. We just channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel.”

How can we rewatch “Friends” in the same way now knowing that Ross and Rachel were each other’s lobsters in real life?

As one last tearjerker during the final lingering moments of the reunion, the six actors—now in their fifties—reminisced over home videos of their twenty-something selves goofing around on set. 

In his one-sentence pitch to the network, Crane described “Friends” as a show “about that time in your life when your friends are your family.” Perhaps the magic of “Friends” is hidden in its ability to resonate with the human experience. The series finale aired in 2004, a few years after we were born; yet, as we twenty-something-year-olds try to forge our own paths in today’s world, we are still looking for friends who are as funny, supportive and loving as Rachel, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, Monica and Chandler.

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About the Contributors
Stanley Zhao
Stanley Zhao, Opinion Copy Editor
Stanley Zhao ('24) is from New York City. He is studying public policy, economics and Chinese in the College of Arts and Science. In his spare time, he loves admiring works of architecture, snacking on prawn chips, cheering for the NY Knicks and appreciating Beyonce & 2Pac in all their glory. He also doesn't like the boba in bubble tea all that much. You can reach him at .
Debbie Wang
Debbie Wang, Staff Writer

Debbie Wang ('24) is from Bellevue, Washington, and served as Editorial Director of The Hustler. She is majoring in biology and neuroscience with a minor in history. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running and exploring new restaurants. She can be reached at [email protected].

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