The Friends Reunion on HBO Didn’t Work

Jens Weingardt

Senior Streaming Contributor

The other day I was watching a strange medley of content. The Friends Reunion on HBO Max was one of the places it started. “The Friends Reunion,” well known as shite, should be hated for a number of reasons. Partially that it is overproduced and unwanted corporate garbage where an HBO exec pushed a $45 Million obligation onto the contracts of the “Friends” cast. The cast could not have had more of a enormous contempt for the entire process — not wanting to be there and not enjoying the event of their exploitation.

The in-house HBO celebration of buying Friends off of Netflix, or more accurately the delusional self-justification of HBO bosses, did not put the content of the show Friends on display as the product, but used the show as a pretence, a pretence to sell the actors.

The show was two hours of corporate bullshit, steeped atop the usual pile of shit that represents the shows syndication. Two hours of overproduced, uninspired, pre-planned anecdotes that still managed to come off as boring and unpractised fillers of time.

The Lady-Gaga-avec-gospel-choir remix of a stupid, three-line cat song; The five-minute-long asides about support beams blocking camera angles; The potato costume full of Justin Bieber; The fake audience; James Corden: A cavalcade of shit, that some asshole at HBO thought would constitute showmanship.

The absolute worst part of the slapdash arrangements were the ending. The beginning and the end were meant to look spontaneous and unrehearsed like a kind of documentary, but was peppered by the actors of the main cast commiserating with each other about how much they didn’t want to be there. The ‘surprise’ ending of the “Friends Reunion” was that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston actually wanted to have sex with each other twenty-seven years ago and would fool around behind the scenes on set, but they never actually had sex because she was dating Tate Donovan and he was dating Natalie Imbruglia.

There are many things apparent to all of the actors which they never bring up: controversies on the show that go unsaid. Like the fact that Tate Donovan got a job on Friends as Jennifer Aniston’s boyfriend almost immediately after they had broken up in real life. Like the fact that Mathew Perry’s career imploded through a combination of drug abuse, near sexual assaults, bankruptcy, and being a generally unlikable person (they do mention he fell out of contact with the rest of the cast, and he also disappears from later parts of the taping).

The myth that HBO floats at the end that two of the main cast wanted to have sex but didn’t is not only dubious, completely ordinary and a damp squid, and pitiful as hell, but it is also super creepy and exploitative. Here two people are pushed up onto stage front and forced to talk about a crush they had thirty years ago that they never acted on. Even more sad given the real life undercurrent of David Schwimmer being a divorced single dad from a woman half his age, to Jennifer Aniston being a thrice-divorced, barren cat lady who used to be famous for skin cream commercials and playing sluts on TV.

Half the time is given up to loser cameos and interviewing the creators, and a cringeworthy scene about how the show Friends, airing on NBC in the nineties, was somehow empowering to Ghanese women. A show where literally over half the cast is men, and two of the main male leads are notorious for being unchallenged misogynists that are horrible to women (“How you doin’?”). A show that aired on NBC, one of the most racist and dishonest companies in American media, the same company that was actually caught numerous times lying to peoples faces on so-called “news” programs, the same company that hired Megyn Kelly as a breakfast anchor, the same company that was sued by Gabrielle Union for racist discrimination, the same company that is repeatedly called out for racism and lack of representation, from late night, to broadcast anchors, to — notably — the show “Friends” itself.

More unstated controversy in a dishonest and trashy get-together on HBO. Not to mention that it is revealed that the original concept for the show was based on the real life experiences of a cliche of under-30’s Jewish television wonks in New York City in the 1970’s, a fact that besides the casting of David Schwimmer and Maggie Wheeler was completely scrubbed from the final product contribute only more so to the problem of racism on Friends. Those three or four women in Ghana might claim that the show Friends made them feel empowered, but in reality they would never have had the possibility to be on that show in a thousand years, except maybe as one of David Schwimmer’s tragic and ill-treated girlfriends.

ANYWAY!, the Friends Reunion had nothing to offer, was creepy, and stank of the heavy hand of a fat corporate shit patting himself on the back for buying the rights to an old syndicated television series that ended almost 30 years ago, in a personal escape from the fact that television media is dying and HBO is desperately trying to remain relevant as an ad-based streaming platform by bringing on the likes of John Oliver, Conan Tepenius O’Briain, and Matthew Perry.

But what do the cast of Friends think about they show? “I wasn’t sure how tonight would go.” “This will never happen again.” “What I have to say probably isn’t interesting.” “It was a long time ago.” “I’m not similar to my character because at my age you have to grow up sometime.” “I was miserable every night.” If you listen to the statements of the cast main six, there is really nothing in the way of enthusiasm or high praise they have to proffer. Other than a few tears and creepy reveals the Friends Reunion was a bore.

I’ve watched many sitcoms, and “Friends” is an extraordinary situation comedy. That is, it flows well enough, as a cast of recurring characters crack superficial jokes while locked in the small reality of a living room. “Friends,” however, is not anything more than that. It is not a TV show. It is not a serial. It is not a drama. It has no narrative. It has no moral. It is utterly pointless and inconsistent, as many sitcoms are. It was leagues above its competitors ages ago, but it should not be celebrated. The world (specifically the corporate world, and the third-world nations they now conspicuously market the old goods to) should follow the main casts lead be a bit more apathetic to the franchise as a whole.

HBO’s “Friends: The Reunion” has nothing to do with the content of that series, possessing no acting whatsoever beside some indifferent table readings by the aging cast.

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