Why the Televised Reunion of the Cast of 90's Sitcom 'Friends' Was a Cultural Car Crash
On 21 February in the year of our lord 2016, five former co-workers sat on a sofa on national television and nothing happened. Not even one chuckle was had. I am talking about the much-touted “Friends reunion” (minus Matthew Perry) that happened on Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows. It was one of the most intensely boring two hours I have ever endured.
The special, commemorating the 1,000th episode of TV that Burrows has directed, reunited the stars from his most famous shows – Taxi, Will & Grace, Big Bang Theory, Frasier, Cheers and, of course, Friends. I have no idea what people were expecting to happen. Just like all the other casts, the five Friends sat on stage looking older and shared a few favourite moments and behind-the-scenes stories. But there was nothing more insightful than the Oprah Winfrey interview the cast did 12 years ago, before the groundbreaking sitcom went off the air. They didn’t reveal whether or not they had to sign contracts saying they wouldn’t sleep with each other – although it did appear that Lisa Kudrow was the only one who had to audition for her part.
There was one good moment, when the five were trying to find their seats on the couch and did a little rearranging dance, with Matt LeBlanc eventually shoving Jennifer Aniston to the fore. It seemed unrehearsed and lighthearted, showing the dynamic that made this team so famous (and rich) decades ago. It was one of few funny moments in a show that was otherwise like attending the retirement party for someone you’ve never met. Here are some of the worst moments
1 The one with the Friends reunion
We learned the near-interesting tidbit that Aniston, Kudrow and Courteney Cox had lunch together on set every single day for 10 years, and that they always ate the same thing: a “Jennifer salad”. We know Aniston made it, but what was in it? The host, Andy Cohen, never followed up, so we’ll always be left wondering. We did learn that Burrows got LeBlanc to let a hockey puck fly in his face. Glad we got that priceless morsel! Oh, and Burrows let the cast play poker in his dressing room. Thank God we found that out!
2 The one with the pre-taped messages
Debra Messing, Matthew Perry and Kelsey Grammer couldn’t make it, so they sent special messages. These are comic actors sending praise to one of the greatest comic directors of all time – and not one of them bothered to write a single joke. Instead, they rambled on with earnest platitudes that could have been said about anyone.
3 The one with the ill-advised impersonations
Many of the people on stage decided to do impersonations of Burrows. That might have been touching, but for the fact that the audience at home had absolutely no idea what the guy sounds or acts like.
4 The one with the chronic-sitcom syndrome
This was supposed to be a comedy special – so why was it so spectacularly unfunny? The worst offenders were the bits that occasionally broke up the casts talking about their shows. There was the smile-free opening in which Will & Grace star Sean Hayes got all the old stars together; a fake public service announcement about “chronic sitcom name confusion syndrome”, in which everyone still screams “Norm!” at actor George Wendt; and Kelsey Grammer trying out roles from other sitcoms.
5 The one with the shameless plugs
Halfway through the show Patrick Warburton, the star of the upcoming NBC sitcom Crowded, told everyone that Burrows’ 1,000th episode of TV would come on this as-yet-unreleased series; the trailer then played. To get into the spirit, Perry took the time in his message to awkwardly plug The End of Longing, the play he wrote and directed in London. The worst part of watching any TV show is the commercials – especially when those commercials are inside that very TV show.