Television

The Winners and Losers of the Friends Reunion

From Matthew Perry to Jennifer Aniston to the bug in Lisa Kudrow’s hair.

Inside colorful red, yellow, and blue bubbles, photos of the cast of Friends: Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, and a capuchin monkey.
The six stars of Friends and David Schwimmer. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by HBO Max and NBC.

The Friends reunion inevitably includes a recreation of the series’ greatest episode, “The One With the Embryos,” in which Rachel and Monica compete against Joey and Chandler in a trivia contest. But as with anything that costs millions of dollars and involves multinational corporations, the Friends reunion itself must have its own winners and losers. Below, we’ve tallied them up. (Unlike on actual Friends, the losers do not have to give up their fancy, rent-controlled apartment.)

Winners

Lisa Kudrow

For all that Kudrow insists that she doesn’t want to reprise the role of Phoebe Buffay and have to say things like “floopy” well into her 50s, she still channels the character perfectly. Most of the cast give it their all during the table reads of some favorite episodes, but her shriek in “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” turns the show up to 11.

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The Bug in Lisa Kudrow’s Hair

Not since the debate fly has an insect so stolen the spotlight. It’s not even visible to the camera, but when David Schwimmer points it out, midanswer, it derails the entire moment as Kudrow freaks out. A star-making turn.

HBO

If the reunion accomplishes one thing, it will probably be whetting viewers’ appetites to go back and revisit some Friends episodes. HBO Max reportedly spent $425 million to steal the streaming rights to Friends away from Netflix—and millions more to lure the cast to the reunion—and it’s apparently paying off. Meanwhile, NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, is apparently struggling to keep up with HBO Max’s 44 million subscribers and lost almost a billion dollars in 2020. Keep your enemies close, but keep Friends closer.

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Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry

So much of the Friends reunion is a love fest, it’s nice to have at least two cast members who ground the show a little bit, each in their own way. Matthew Perry’s sad admission that he felt like he was going to die if the audience didn’t laugh at his jokes was about as deep as the special delved into the pressures of the cast’s extreme fame. On the other end of the Matt spectrum, LeBlanc, with such anecdotes as his story about the moment when a paparazzi helicopter flying over his house prompted him to notice what a mess his roof was, is refreshingly unserious about the whole thing. Nothing quite breaks the spell like seeing LeBlanc’s contribution to the wall of nice messages written on the last day of shooting: “I shit here.”

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Ross and Rachel Shippers

Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer’s admission that they had crushes on each other in the early seasons but were always in other relationships is a huge win for Ross and Rachel shippers—not just because of the real-life star-crossed romance, but because the two never acted on their feelings. As Courteney Cox points out, if they had, it might have ruined everything, whereas channeling their chemistry into their characters obviously worked out.

Losers

Rachel Greene

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Six out of six friends agree: Ross and Rachel were on a break. Even Jennifer Aniston! Sorry, Rachel, but no 18-page letter is going to change that, even if the pages are front and back.

People Praying for a Sequel

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Not happening, says Lisa Kudrow, and the show’s co-creators agree: Bringing back Friends would mean unraveling the happy endings, and they’re not willing to do that.

James Corden

I feel a little bad for James Corden! His energy is all wrong for the special, and the editing does him no favors, cutting between intimate scenes of the cast reminiscing and the host half-shouting softball questions. You have to wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better to give the hosting gig to someone affiliated with the show, like Paul Rudd (who doesn’t appear) or Gunther actor James Michael Tyler (who, like most of the guest stars, barely gets a chance to say hi before he’s dismissed in favor of bigger celebrities who have nothing to do with Friends).

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The Monkey

It’s never fun when a former co-star publicly tells you to “fuck off,” but that’s what Schwimmer did to his capuchin co-star Marcel (real name Katie), when asked if there was anything he didn’t like about filming the show. Schwimmer’s dislike for his co-star is so intense that Perry even quips, “I would like you to be more serious about this.”

First of all, I want to say I love animals. I love primates. I have nothing against animals. I’m an animal lover. However. Here was my problem: The monkey—obviously it was trained. It had to hit its mark and do its thing right at the perfect time, but what inevitably began to happen was, we would all have choreographed bits kind of timed out, and it would get messed up because the monkey didn’t do its job right. So we’d have to reset, we’d have to go again, because the monkey didn’t get it right. This kept happening over and over where we’re about to do something really funny, but the monkey didn’t hit its mark so we’d have to start again.

Schwimmer also (understandably) took issue with the monkey eating live grubs while perched on his shoulder. Having her dirty laundry aired like this cannot be good for the monkey, who’s poised to make her return to the small screen soon in Y: The Last Man.

David Schwimmer (for Hating the Monkey)

The man revealed on television that he has nursed a 25-year grudge against a MONKEY. Meanwhile I bet the monkey has not even thought about him ONCE since leaving the show. Embarrassing.

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