It was the illusion of storytelling that has always enveloped the reality of sitcoms and television series....
The character of FRIENDS became a part of our lives. The viewers in their teens during the late 1990s and 2000s eagerly waited to watch an episode. In Pakistan, Star World – on cable television – telecasted the series. Bundle CD and DVD packs of each season were available in the market as well. Now the episodes are available on Netflix. Although FRIENDS depicted the lifestyle and culture of the average American group of friends, they did have some commonalities with the Pakistani viewers. Concerns about relationships, switching jobs, impressing others, getting over one’s past, or trying to blend in were some of the concepts displayed through the series.
Like any sitcom, FRIENDS was shot on a sound stage in the Warner Brother’s studio in Burbank, California in front of a live audience. With multiple cameras set up, the recording of one episode normally took four to five hours. With bloopers, re-takes, and breaks in between the takes, the aim was to produce a 22-minute episode. Such endeavors are hidden from the viewers who watch the episode on TV or digital media.
From Joey Tribbiani’s “how you doin‘“ to Phoebe Buffay singing “Smelly Cat” and her eccentric one-liners, the show had its memorable moments. Chandler Bing’s sarcastic remarks and Monica Geller’s obsession with cleanliness, their on-screen couple became a hit. Ross Geller’s passion to study dinosaurs and Rachel Green’s aspiration to work in the fashion industry shared more insights into their characters. To act as a particular character with a distinct personality is indeed a challenge. To do so for 10 years is nothing short of a life-changing journey. Indeed, the actors became one with their characters.
With 236 episodes spanning 10 seasons over 10 years (1994-2004), one would wonder the amount of pre-recording preparations that would be undertaken. The backstage crew and production team used to be head over heels to finalize the script, design the set, select the wardrobe and complete a plethora of other essential tasks before each rehearsal and recording.
It was the illusion of storytelling that has always enveloped the reality of sitcoms and television series. The establishing shots of real buildings are used to begin the scene while the rest of the scenes are shot inside a sound stage. However, storytelling has the power to grip the viewers’ minds as they follow the lives of the characters from one scene to the other, from one episode to the other. The viewer’s relate themselves to the characters’ journey and feel what the characters go through.
Friends: The Reunion, however, removed all the illusion and the secrets. The six original cast members came together after over 17 years. They did not become a part of The Reunion as the characters that they played on the show. They appeared as their true selves. There were no Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Ross Geller, Chandler Bing, or Joey Tribbiani on the set. They were Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. It was a reunion FRIENDS’ fans were waiting for years. The recording was postponed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it did happen. There were tears as the actors came together on the actual sets and shared their insights about the show. They did table reading sessions of the shows’ memorable scenes. They watched the bloopers and discussed the parts of the show that were their favorite and the ones they did not like.
FRIENDS was also popular for the cameos made by celebrity guests. Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I. fame appeared on the show multiple times as Dr. Richard Burke, the love interest of Monica Geller. With over 70 such appearances, the Hollywood stars that appeared on the show include Charlie Sheen, Danny DeVito, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Reese Witherspoon, Christina Applegate, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Julia Roberts, Gary Oldman, Bruce Willis, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.