The last time the purple door aired — in real-time — on television was 17 years back.
Since then, even if Friends became a part of our regular routines for the quickest pick-me-up, for the guaranteed doses of laughter and rejuvenation; to see it all transpire, once again, with Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica, Joey and Phoebe, finally returning home, is bound to make anyone feel the nostalgia.
Meaningless to say, when Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, go back to the meticulously rebuilt set yet again, in the highly-anticipated Friends: The Reunion (now streaming on Zee5), there were bound to be tears.
Here are some of the moments that stood out:
Aniston was in tears. Cox was in tears. And dare you to unsee that tiniest glimpse of their characters, Rachel and Monica, in them. In some of my own re-watches, I often wondered when these actors would break character – because there had to be some moments, right?
As they hugged and revisited their times together, they went back to their changing rooms. Schwimmer then recalled how in the first couple of seasons, they used to eat lunch together, every single day. "Even on the weekends," he added.
When Perry and LeBlanc went to Joey and Chandler's apartment, they, of course, took out some time to sit on the recliners and relive the fun they had while shooting The One Where Ross and Rachel… You Know, where their characters refuse to move away from their seats. It was quite the touching moment when a sentimental Perry then said, "Aww Matty, it's good to see you." Joey and Chandler for life? Joey and Chandler for life.
Schwimmer was the first person to get cast. Aniston was the last. And there were so many stories to be told in between. While some of the stories were definitely heard before, especially by hardcore Friends fans, the recollection of how the cast got shortlisted fit right in to the mood. Schwimmer had quit acting, and had moved to Chicago to do full-time theatre. The makers actually sent him gift baskets to convince him to play Ross, a character they had based on his voice modulations. Perry was actually pulled out of a sci-fi show he had already been signed for, while Aniston had already shot for six episodes of another show. Had that been picked up by a channel, Rachel wouldn't have been the same.
The part where fans – right from the general public, to BTS, to Malala Yousafzai – talk about the show was endearing to see. Malala spoke about how her best friend got her addicted to the series, and how The One With The Routine was her favourite episode. Fans from across the world spoke about how the show helped them – and continues to do so – in their hardest of times. Was it slightly cheesy? Possibly. But the show, even if slightly dated at times, brings about a sense of comfort, a sense of the known, which cannot go unacknowledged.
There were several interesting anecdotes on the live audience. Perry spoke about his anxiety, and how he would get sleepless nights, sweats and even convulsions if the audience didn't react to his jokes the way he'd imagine them to. This threw light on the amount of stress that went behind the shooting of the several high-pressure episodes that relied on the reactions of the live audience. The creators, David Crane and Marta Kauffman, also revealed how they would switch into live brainstorming sessions if the audience wouldn't laugh at their jokes the way they intended them to. In one of the behind-the-scene shots, it was actually revealed that LeBlanc dislocated his arm for real during the shooting of The One Where No One's Ready.
Maggie Wheeler aka Janice, in her little appearance, stole the show once again. She spoke about how the prompt she received for her role, quite aptly, stated, 'Fast-talking New Yorker.' She also revealed that Janice's iconic laughter was inspired by Perry's quick wit and the pressure she felt working opposite him.
Lady Gaga's special appearance also stood out because she sang – of course she did – and paid a tribute to her favourite character that encouraged her to be her unfiltered, true self.
Ross and Rachel were crushing on each other for real! Aniston and Schwimmer were actually developing a crush on each other in real life while shooting for the first season of Friends. In fact, Aniston went on to reveal that they put in all their emotions for each other into their characters, and their first (and unforgettable) on-screen kiss. Their table reading of the same dialogues, followed by some adorable BTS footages, made one wonder what would've happened had the two dated in real life.
Also, surprise, surprise: Schwimmer hated working with Marcel, Ross' beloved monkey. They had to reshoot several of their otherwise hilarious sequences because 'the monkey wouldn't get it right.' The monkey would often sit on his shoulders and grub, leaving his hands all over Schwimmer's hair and clothes.
It was comforting to relive these moments with the people closest to the characters we loved and lived. In a way, it's a good thing that this was an interview episode – not an actual episode 17 years down the line – because somewhere, the fact remained that Friends did have a satisfying, almost undisputed ending. To have tampered with something that rare could've hampered the closure they had, we had, already received years ago.
And so, as the cast went in for a group hug beside the Friends fountain, with The Rembrandts' I'll Be There For You playing in the background, this was an ending, that yet again, felt fitting enough to leave a much-needed warmth in our hearts and a lasting smile on our faces.
Friends: The Reunion is now streaming in India on Zee5