What did the Friends reunion teach me? That global fame is the opposite of happiness | Deborah Frances-White

For some of the Friends cast, the answer to Joey’s favourite question ‘How you doin’?’ seems to be ‘just about hanging in there’

At a time when the whole world is stuck in second gear and it hasn’t been our day, our week, our month or especially our year, the Friends reunion felt unavoidable. I may have been the only one who didn’t want a new episode. I don’t need to see Ross shouting “Hashtag not all men!” across Central Perk. I think we need to be honest and admit he and Rachel are divorced now and she has finally realised that no one is ever going to love her more than tech billionaire Gunther, who has created an app to identify the closest coffee shop with a big empty sofa.

Fortunately, we weren’t forced to see that dramatised. Instead we got what I wanted – the gang wandering round the set of their spectacularly well-paid youth, choking back tears and watching bloopers. I really wasn’t expecting to feel for them so deeply. The whole thing seemed to be blinding evidence that global fame is diametrically opposed to happiness. Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston and co spent a formative decade gasping for connection because they had no choice but to live in the bodies of everyone’s favourite fictitious characters.

In season two, when their loner neighbour Mr Heckles dies, Chandler spins out that he’s going to end up just like him. “Our trains are on the same track … The stops are all the same. Bittertown. Aloneville. Hermit Junction!” In the reunion we watched Perry faced with that same ghost of sitcom past, in the form of 80-year-old actor Larry Hankin, who has ironically aged better than anyone – or at least doesn’t look like his own Spitting Image puppet.

Meanwhile, Perry has publicly lived Chandler’s prophecy. It was a stark reminder that good looks, a million bucks an episode and everyone wanting to be you and/or shag you can make contentment a joke, get you addicted to pills and booze and leave your love life DOA. The answer to Joey’s favourite question – “How you doin’?” seems to be for some of them: “Just hanging in there.”

We see it and yet the unbelievable thing is, we truly believe if we had their opportunities, we would be different. We would be The One That Finds Happiness in Fame and Glamour.


Deborah Frances-White

The GuardianTramp

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