Where you stand on the Friends reunion bonanza, which airs on Thursday, presumably depends on how you generally feel about the prospect of mawkish, self-congratulatory variety shows compered by James Corden. The trailer for this hybrid love-in/Q&A/trivia night/set visit — which also features eclectic guest spots from people including Kit Harrington and Cara Delevingne — made me feel vaguely mortified, like bumping into an erstwhile, unrequited crush at a wedding and realising, with the clarity of a thunderbolt, that they’re actually a charisma vacuum, or seeing your English teacher at the supermarket.
Obviously, I have gone full “community elder”: old enough to see the clothing mistakes I made at 13 come back around (hello again, crop tops!); old enough for a show that defined my early teens to be “retro” enough for a reunion episode; old enough to be carping about how things were better in the good old days (she got off the plane! Leave it at that!); and yes, old enough to have judged it before I’ve technically seen it (do not @ me — believe me, the two-minute trailer was enough).
So fine, it’s a full house on “millennial grouch bingo” (could I BE any more misanthropic, etc). Still, is nothing sacred? They’re doing a new Sex And The City, too: repositioning those perfectly imperfect classics in a bloodless, cynical way designed by algorithm to trend on social media. Nostalgia is wonderful; long live nostalgia. I’ve had the theme tune to The OC stuck in my head since 2004. But I guess we could also just satisfy it by re-watching the original ones, which are all on Netflix.
But modern super-fandom is voracious: desperate for behind-the-scenes titbits and hopelessly romantically invested in the cast’s IRL relationships. Duly, savvy TV producers are more than happy to provide fuel for the juggernaut (it’s easy “content”). Although I feel the point about suspending your disbelief for a dramatic world is you don’t always want to know how it was all put together. Or see the cast do a clunky table read of an old episode which was definitely better the first time around. I’d far rather see them in their Nineties heyday than now, so maybe I’m the hopeless romantic.
And hey, last laugh is theirs, as do-overs are big biz: the cast are rumoured to be being paid up to $2.5 million each (“The One Where It’s All About The Money”?). I’m sure the fandom will adore it (there was, after all, an audience for FriendsFest, a sad festival whose headliner was a replica of Monica and Rachel’s apartment).
Plus the show is one of that pantheon of Nineties and noughties shows that acquired cult status pre-streaming, ie during an era when we all watched the same shows at the same time, and talked about them afterwards (imagine!). 51.1 million Americans tuned into the finale — no wonder the producers want another slice of that pie.
There I was, mourning the end of the Premier League and Gareth Southgate has stepped up. Today he announces his provisional squad for the (very) delayed Euro 2020 tournament. I can replace one obsession with another. Oh imagine being let loose on June 21, pouring into pubs to watch Prince Harry (Kane) and the rest storm Group D. In this fantasy version, we win the whole thing, and there’s a victory parade and all the variants have been banished and life is beginning again, at last…