We found out yesterday that the Friends cast would reunite for an NBC special honoring director James Burrows. There aren’t many details yet about what the special will entail, but it’s easy and fun to speculate. However, this probably won’t be the scripted reunion that fans have been hoping for since the show went off the air in 2004. But can you blame people for holding out hope even though the odds have never seemed favorable?
We’re living in a golden time where long cancelled or otherwise concluded shows re-emerge out of the blue all the time. Besides that, other shows have found creative ways to return to the airwaves — be it as a one-off super episode like The IT Crowd, the upcoming X-Files micro-season, or the oh-so-clever meta Seinfeld reunion that Larry David put together on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Which is, honestly, the high-water mark.
Rumors of a Friends reunion show have bubbled up like clockwork nearly every year for the past five years. In 2011, Matt LeBlanc shut down rumors of a new series:
“Friends was this magical, cool thing, like lightning in a bottle and I feel super fortunate to be part of it. But I can’t see a reunion not feeling gratuitous. What would the story be? We all get together and what? Have coffee?”
LeBlanc again expressed his disinterest in returning to the character during a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying that fans would probably be disappointed in whatever they put together:
“I don’t want to see old Joey. I don’t want to see Chandler and Monica with their kids that are [raising a hand a few feet off the ground] this big now. I’d rather imagine that. Everyone’s going to have different vision of what those characters are like, so to have that materialize is going to disappoint most people.”
However, the biggest blip on the radar popped up in 2013, when a particularly good bit of fan art made everyone think a new season was on the way sometime around Thanksgiving 2014. Why? To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show going off the air. The poster’s creator eventually apologized for the excitement he inadvertently created, and Matthew Perry took to Twitter to shut down the renewed rumors.
Could he be any more of a buzzkill?
In early 2015, creator Martha Kauffman gave the definitive “never going to happen” in an interview with The Wrap:
“That show was about a time in your life when your friends are your family,” Kauffman said. “Once you begin to have a family of your own, that is no longer the case, and your priorities shift. So the show is over.”
“It’s much better that people want it, than that they get it and don’t like it,” Kauffman said. “The fear is, well, it’ll never be what it was.”
Still, some cast members enjoy playing with the idea of a reunion. Like when Courtney Cox suggested a spinoff about Monica and Jennifer Aniston said they should take the “Golden Friends” route during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show. Cox, Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow also popped by Jimmy Kimmel Live in a recreation of Monica’s kitchen to tease fans. In hindsight, that might be as close as fans will ever get.
It seems quite clear that the cast obviously loved their time on Friends. They even credit the show as one of their career highs. However, due to work commitments in film and television, they are either unable or unwilling to return to the characters to appease fans.
But isn’t it all about a little more than fan service? These shows are comfort food to the fans and cash cows to the networks, but they’re also art and the result of a lot of hard work done for the right reasons — to be good, to be memorable, and to tell stories that make people laugh because they’re relatable and clever. To forget about those things to pursue the other things like applause and adoration would undercut the whole effort, wouldn’t it?
Whether you agree or disagree with that sentiment, though, let’s be honest. You know you’d watch if the gang got back together for one night or one season, and so would I. It’s Friends. They’ll be there for you, so you gotta be there for them, right?