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‘Friends’ reunion: Five fun things we learned from the long-awaited special

UPDATED: Thu., June 3, 2021

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow in “Friends: The Reunion” on HBO Max.  (Terence Patrick/HBO Max)
Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow in “Friends: The Reunion” on HBO Max. (Terence Patrick/HBO Max)
By Chuck Barney Tribune News Service

“Friends: The Reunion,” the long-awaited on-screen gathering of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, finally debuted on HBO Max last week.

Our first reaction to the 104-minute special? With so many moving parts – including a Q&A session, a goofy fashion show, a cast quiz, script readings and much more – it’s crazy busy, and not always in a good way.

Still, it comes packed with an abundance of warm memories, a lot of laughs and even a few tears (keep the tissues handy). So, we have a feeling that most die-hard fans will find plenty to love about the show.

Here are five moments that stood out for us:

1. No love for the monkey: Remember Marcel – the furry primate who appeared in the early episodes of “Friends”? Schwimmer never liked working with him.

“The monkey didn’t do his job right. … He didn’t hit his marks,” said the actor who played Ross, of his former co-star.

Now we know why he didn’t last long.

“It was time for Marcel to f*** off!” Schwimmer growled.

2. A painful reminder: Devoted fans might recall a Season 3 episode in which Matt LeBlanc’s Joey was seen wearing a sling. That was the result of a very real injury incurred while filming a previous episode.

LeBlanc was supposed to shoot a scene that had him diving into a couch. Turns out he dislocated his shoulder while doing so and was whisked off by paramedics to the hospital as filming was abruptly halted for the night.

The reunion special features raw footage of the scream-inducing scene as LeBlanc – and the cast – relive it all over again.

3. Monica and Chandler forever: When Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) had their surprising fling in London, it was supposed to a one-and-done plot line. But the scene drew such a huge reaction from the studio audience that producers and writers realized that they were on to something.

So they adopted a new, long-term game plan.

“The way the audience reacted, we realized there was more to this,” series co-creator Marta Kaufman recalls. “… It was such a powerful moment that we knew we had to explore it more.”

4. Aniston might have missed all the fun: “Friends” producers were so determined to have Jennifer Aniston play Rachel that they took a huge risk and cast her, despite the fact that she was already in a CBS sitcom titled “Muddling Through.” (She played a character with a Southern twang).

As they began filming, they crossed their fingers that “Muddling” would be canceled, and it mercifully was. Even so, a producer for the CBS show warned Aniston point blank that “Friends” is “not going to make you a star.”

“Muddling Through” aired nine episodes. “Friends” shot 236 episodes over 10 years and became a global phenomenon. Apparently, the guy was wrong.

5. A “real” Ross and Rachel romance?: Consider this one: Aniston and Schwimmer could have become each other’s lobsters in real life. In one of the special’s warm-and-fuzziest moments, the actors revealed that they had serious crushes on each other during the early days of the show and even used to cuddle on the couch between takes.

But they never truly acted on their desires.

“It was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship, and we never crossed that boundary,” Schwimmer said. “We respected that.”

Added Aniston, “So we channeled all our love and adoration for each other into Ross and Rachel.”

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