‘Friends’ Reunion: The One With the ‘Remember the One With … ?’
The episode titles in “Friends” were distinctively generic: “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break,” “The One With the Monkey.” The template said a few things about the show. This was a comedy that would never take itself seriously; it was not going to name an episode “Ozymandias.” Its titles assumed that you would forget them. It understood how fans watched TV and how they talked about it.
“Friends: The Reunion,” the sweet, shaggy special arriving on HBO Max on Thursday, makes another thing about the titles clear: They’re pre-nostalgized. They’re written the way you would try to remember the episodes, retrospectively, years later — say, at a reunion.
《老友记：重聚》(Friends: The Reunion)周四在HBO Max频道播出，这是一个温馨可爱的特辑，显示出那些片名的另一个特点：它们预先就已经在怀旧了。它们是按照你们在多年后回想往事的方式写的——比如，在一次重聚的时候。
And when I say “you,” I include the actors who starred in them. “Do you remember the one where you guys were throwing a ball back and forth?” Jennifer Aniston asks her old colleagues. (It was, in fact, called “The One With the Ball.”) Later, Matt LeBlanc recalls being in his kitchen and seeing a rerun of “the one with the leather pants.” (Actually, “The One With All the Resolutions.”)
我说的“你们”也包括剧集的主演们。“你还记得你们来回扔球的那一集吗？”詹妮弗·安妮斯顿(Jennifer Aniston)问她的老同事们（那一集其实就叫《关于球的那一集》）。后来，马特·勒布朗(Matt LeBlanc)回忆说，他在自己的厨房里看了 《穿皮裤的那一集》重播。（其实是《关于各种决心的那一集》。）
The “Friends” stars are, give or take a few zillion dollars and magazine covers, just like us. They just want to remember. And this reunion is a remember-that machine. Central Perk, “Smelly Cat,” “We were on a break”; check, check and check.
Nostalgia was built into “Friends” right down to the concept, which the co-creator David Crane describes here as, “It’s about that time in your life when your friends were your family.”
In other words, it’s a show about a time that you know will end even as you live through it, that you will look back on later, with a new life and new responsibilities, romanticizing the days when you were young, hot and broke, yet somehow living in an unreasonably large apartment.
So this special is the superexpressway of memory lanes, an hour and three-quarters that stitch together several formats: a talk-show-style interview with James Corden; a celebrity-packed tribute; a collection of behind-the-scenes clips; and a revisiting and re-creation of classic scenes.
But first, the waterworks. “Friends” was always a balance of fine-tuned comedy writing and sentiment, and the reunion begins and ends on the latter. The cast members walk onto the old Warner Bros. soundstage one at a time, to hugs and the swell of angelic music, as if they are meeting in the afterlife — which, in the TV sense, they are.
I doubt fans will begrudge them a little sap. “Friends” might be the best-liked sitcom ever — by which I don’t mean “best” or even “most popular,” but simply that its overarching success was to create a sense of genial affection toward itself and its characters. “All in the Family” made arguments. “The Simpsons” made an immense world. “Friends” just made friends.
我觉得剧迷们不会吝惜一点点眼泪。《老友记》可能是史上最受欢迎的情景喜剧——我并不是说它是“最好的”或“最受欢迎的”，我只想说，它最大的成功在于，它为自己和角色们创造出了一种亲切的感情。《全家福》(All in the Family)提出了论点。《辛普森一家》创造了一个巨大的世界。《老友记》只是交了朋友。
For this reason, the obligatory talking-head testimonies are nice but superfluous — though it’s charming to hear the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai described by her best friend Vee Kativhu as “Joey with a hint of Phoebe.”
出于这个原因，必须性的嘉宾证言很不错，但其实是多余的——尽管听到诺贝尔和平奖得主马拉拉·优萨福扎伊(Malala Yousafzai)被她最好的朋友维·卡蒂夫胡(Vee Kativhu)描述为“带点菲比气质的乔伊”是很迷人的。
Likewise, Corden’s interview feels peripheral among all the elements here, particularly since so many of his questions boil down to “Remember when?” and “What do you remember about?” (One question about offscreen relationships does yield a quasi-revelation that a competent publicity team will try to trumpet like it’s proof of life on Mars.)
The special is better when it gets out of the cast’s way and shows us what drew us to them, and them to each other. As the special notes, they were relative unknowns suddenly thrown into the celebrity panopticon. Now they’re like an astronaut crew, bound by an otherworldly experience. As David Schwimmer says, only the six of them really understand what one another went through, and there’s a protective feel to their interactions now.
The best thing about the reunion is what it isn’t: The cast and creators are adamant about never making a where-are-they-now revival episode. (“I don’t want anybody’s happy ending unraveled,” Lisa Kudrow says, and thank God.) Instead, they recreate the experience of the series with set pieces, like a reprise of the boys-vs.-girls trivia game from “The One With the Embryos,” and, especially, the table reads.
“Friends,” after all, did not get where it did simply on catchphrases and haircuts. The cast’s reading from “The One With the Jellyfish” — in which Chandler, Joey and Monica confess to using the (mythical) pee-on-it trick to kill the pain of a sea-creature sting — shows the talent it takes to wring the laughs out of a comedy scene that’s written like a survivor’s horror drama. In a breakdown of the couch-moving sequence, a scene with scant dialogue becomes a classic on the strength of Schwimmer’s delivery of the two syllables, “Pi-vot!”
If the whole affair feels a touch less special, it’s because of a glut in the nostalgia market. It was announced, with fanfare and a reportedly hefty price tag, in February 2020, just before the pandemic lockdowns. Since then, a slew of beloved series — “Community,” “The Office,” “E.R.,” “Parks and Recreation” — have reunited over Zoom and on TV, for charity or just because they could.
如果整件事情感觉不是那么特别，那是因为怀旧市场已经供过于求。该计划于2020年2月宣布，就在大流行封锁之前，它经过了大肆宣传，据称耗资巨大。从那以后，一系列受人喜爱的电视剧——《废柴联盟》(Community)、《办公室》(The Office)、《急诊室的故事》(E.R.)、《公园与游憩》(Parks and Recreation)等等——都在Zoom上或电视搞了重聚，有的是为了慈善，有的只是因为他们能够聚一下。
But this reunion does make a fitting Gen X bookend to the reunion of “The Real World: New York” earlier this year. (You could think of “Friends,” which premiered in 1994, as kind of a scripted answer to the original “Real World,” which aired two years earlier.) That follow-up was more willing to dig into the effects of time, what has and hasn’t aged well in the original season and the cast’s flaws and challenges (including clashes on the set of the new show).
但这次的重聚与今年早些时候的《真实世界：纽约》(The Real World: New York)那次重聚，对于X一代来说堪称首尾呼应。（你可以把1994年首播的《老友记》看作是对两年前播出的第一部《真实世界》的一种有剧本的回应。)《真实世界》的那次重聚更愿意挖掘时间的影响，第一季中的哪些东西过时了，哪些没有，还有演员们的缺点和挑战（包括在新剧拍摄过程中的冲突）。
“Friends: The Reunion” is not reality TV, nor a news report. So there’s plenty you won’t hear about: the contentious contract negotiations; criticisms of the show for casting mainly white actors; personal or health issues. When an audience member asks what the actors disliked about making the show, Corden jokingly chides, “Way to keep it positive!” (The collective answer throws Marcel the monkey under the bus.)
But then, nobody watched “Friends” to be reminded of the world’s woes. Those are what come after the finale, when you move out of that starter apartment and take on a mortgage. This was about seeing the stars together, supposedly for the last time — “We’re not doing this again in 15 years,” Courteney Cox says. After which the reruns, where the past stays frozen in place, will be there for you.