When I heard that ‘Friends – the reunion’ would premiere on 27th May 2021, seventeen years after the last episode and nearly twenty-seven years after the first one, my immediate reaction was, ‘Woah, that’s a bad idea.’
I knew I was right but I didn’t know why (yeah, I admit, that happens to me a lot, even when it turns out I’m not right). Getting those guys together after all this time seemed… doomed.
‘Friends’ was part of my life for a long time. I was never an ‘I have to watch that’ fan. Just a regular grazer of the ‘Yeah, I can watch this’ kind. I even missed the last two seasons because I was abroad by then and had other things on my mind. Even so, there was something about ‘Friends’, about the message that it sent and the reaction that it received that seemed to mean something to the generation after mine. I think it captured hopes and fears and presented them with pretty people who led fantasy lives where the young and poorly paid could afford NYC apartments and friends stayed friends for a decade.
You’d think, then, that my curiosity would be triggered by seeing how this group had fared, that I’d be hoping their friendship would rekindle, that they’d draw strength from their remembered past and joy from the possibilities their reunion generates. Maybe the episode will go that way It is a fantasy after all.
But instead of being curious, I was reluctant. The nineties were a long time ago. The world is different now. The fantasy circle of friends has had plenty of time for the hopes and dreams to become fears and regrets or at least to be seen as something that belonged to someone else. Someone they can no longer be who dreamt of being people who that they didn’t, in the end, become. The young folks are now the adults in the room and the world they’re living in is the one they made.
Well, it’s just a TV show. But it’s a TV show that was of its time. We thought it harmless then although the attitudes and behaviours that created the world we wade through today were built in to the humour of that show. Watching it now, I’m sure I’d be shouting – how could you think that was funny?- and – wake up and see what’s happening – but then, i’m a curmudgeon by habit and many TV comedies seem sad to me.
So, I find myself not wanting to know what happened to those friends. I don’t want speculation and hope and potential happy ever afters to collapse to a known and unchangeable outcome that I probably won’t like.
I never saw the final season of ‘Friends’. I’m not sure I’d have watched it even if I’d still been living in the UK. Final seasons tend to disappoint. Somehow the probability curves always collapse to zero. But I know how it ended because I read it in a poem by Polly Clark. I think she’s captured the heart of what ‘Friends’ meant when it started and what it had become by the time it ended. I think she’s taken that observation and turned it into something bigger and more important. Something that speaks to me about how life really is. That’s what poets do.
Here’s her poem. Let me know whether it works for you.