Friends reunion 'bloated' and critics slam 'banal' James Corden

Friends reunion brings ‘flashes’ of cast magic but is ‘bloated’ with ‘tiresome filler’ and ‘banal’ questions from James Corden, critics claim in early TV reviews

  • Deadline review claimed only ‘hardcore’ fans would be satisfied by the ‘filler-packed’ special 
  • The New York Times wrote the special gets ‘better when it gets out of the cast’s way and shows us what drew us to them, and them to each other’ 
  • Variety reported Matthew Perry – whose addiction struggles impacted his time on the show – brought a ‘palpable unease’ to the special due to the lack of addressing of his battles
  • EW branded the Late Late Show host’s line of question ‘banal 104-minute special sandwiches these flashes of reunion magic between a lot of silly, tiresome filler’ 
  • THR noted Corden was only able to draw out ‘superficial conversations’ from the cast which resulted in ‘glibness’ rather than ‘introspection’ 
  • The show airs on Thursday 27 on HBO Max in the US and 8pm on Sky One
  • UK viewers will be able to stream the show on NOW from 8am BST and US viewers on the HBO app

The highly-anticipated Friends reunion has been branded ‘bloated’ and jammed with ‘tiresome filler’ by critics. 

And James Corden has been widely-panned for his interview with the show’s stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry, with one slamming his ‘banal’ questions. 

While the nostalgic element has been called upon and praised by experts, the lack of awareness towards the more problematic nature of the show set tongues wagging as well as James’ appearance as host.

The HBO Max special, which airs this Thursday, sees the cast return to the famous set where they filmed the series over 10 years, with the show filled with special guests, games and nostalgia. 

‘Banal’: Critics have slammed James Corden’s (L) interview of the Friends cast during the reunion special, which is set to air on HBO Max on Thursday

Entertainment Weekly gave the show a grade B in its sharp review, noting there were ‘flashes of reunion magic’ but added: ‘Unfortunately, the bloated, 104-minute (!) special sandwiches these flashes of reunion magic between a lot of silly, tiresome filler…

‘Corden’s interview is banal, though he manages to unearth one (obviously thoroughly vetted in advance) revelation about two of the stars.’

The Hollywood Reporter noted the Late Late Show host, 42, was only able to draw out ‘superficial conversations’ from the cast which resulted in ‘glibness’ rather than ‘introspection.’ 

Deadline claims the reunion will satisfy ‘hardcore’ fans only, noting: ‘If you don’t have a standing order at Central Perk, you’ll probably want to skip the much-hyped, almost two-hour-long shindig that is way more filler than killer, to put it kindly.’  

EW gave it a grade B noting there were ‘flashes of reunion magic’ during the show, but added: ‘Unfortunately, the bloated, 104-minute special sandwiches these flashes of reunion magic between a lot of silly, tiresome filler’

The cast of the show received a reported $2.5M appearance fee for the TV special.

The New York Times called Corden’s interview ‘peripheral’ in the ‘sweet, shaggy special’ but it gets ‘better when it gets out of the cast’s way and shows us what drew us to them, and them to each other.’

NYT critic James Poniewozik wrote: ‘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!”‘

THR noted the 42-year-old Late Late Show host (L) was only able to draw out ‘superficial conversations’ from the cast which resulted in ‘glibness’ rather than ‘introspection’

When an audience member asked what the actors disliked about making the show, Corden jokingly chided: ‘Way to keep it positive!’

James likely got the gig thanks to the Friends: The Reunion director Ben Winston, who also happens to helm CBS’ Late Late Show With James Corden. 

Variety said the ‘Corden weirdness eventually devolves into a fashion show that ‘can only describe as “unhinged.”‘

‘The live-audience component is ostensibly why HBO Max held off on producing the special earlier,’ Variety critic Caroline Framke wrote.

‘And yet throughout the reunion’s impressive run time of over an hour and a half, it also proves to be the least essential.’

‘It felt like every night like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh’: Variety reported Matthew Perry (2-L) – whose addiction struggles impacted his time on the show – brought a ‘palpable unease’ to the special

Framke said Matthew Perry – whose addiction struggles impacted his time on the show – brought a ‘palpable unease’ to the special.

‘When his castmates talk about staying in touch with each other, he cracks a joke about how he doesn’t hear “from anyone” so dryly that it’s impossible to tell if it’s actually a joke,’ Variety reported.

‘Later, as the rest of the cast laughs about the takes they messed up and how the audience reacted, Perry remembers how he felt every night “like I was going to die if they didn’t laugh,” and acknowledges that “it wasn’t healthy, for sure.”‘

CNN called the 104-minute special ‘big, slightly bloated, and unapologetically nostalgic valentine to fans.’

IndieWire noted: ‘The opening shots are the most powerful by far, as each star walks through the studio doors into the recreated NYC apartments’

Ben Travers wrote: ‘Random celebs vouch for the show’s bona fides, as if their fandom somehow speaks to the show’s value: “Popular people endorsing a popular thing makes them both… more… popular?” Seriously: Why is David Beckham here?’

‘It’s inevitably hard-pressed to justify the hype,’ CNN critic Brian Lowry wrote.

‘Working best when it lets the cast casually reminisce, while getting carried away with cameos, some of which, well, couldn’t be more random.’

IndieWire gave it a grade of C- and said that ‘hiring Corden as moderator is an immediate red flag.’

‘Trotting out The Late Late Show host to toss softballs at the cast and cackle hysterically at mundane gossip is exactly the kind of thing that contributes to the perception of Friends as shallow and superficial,’ IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote.

‘Random celebs vouch for the show’s bona fides, as if their fandom somehow speaks to the show’s value: “Popular people endorsing a popular thing makes them both… more… popular?” Seriously: Why is David Beckham here?’

However, Travers noted: ‘The opening shots are the most powerful by far, as each star walks through the studio doors into the recreated NYC apartments.’

Among the celebrity guest highlights were Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai being described by her best friend Vee Kativhu as ‘Joey with a hint of Phoebe’ and K-pop boyband BTS revealing they learned how to speak English watching Friends. 

Critics seemed to agree on the six stars’ recapturing their chemistry during script readings of episodes ‘The One Where Everybody Finds Out’ and ‘The One Where Ross Finds Out [That Rachel Likes Him].’ 

The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan quipped: ‘We can call it The One That Was Just Good Enough. The One That Was a Nostalgia Fest Not Revisionist History. The One That Did What It Needed to Do. The One That Was Fine.’ 

Also weighing in on James Corden’s appearance was Adam Miller from Metro, who wrote: ‘Concerns when James Corden was announced as host are understandable and, yes, the few minutes he yells questions to the cast like he’s filming an episode of Carpool Karaoke from the back of a jet engine could be done without…

Among the celebrity guest highlights were Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai being described by her best friend Vee Kativhu as ‘Joey with a hint of Phoebe’ and K-pop boyband BTS revealing they learned how to speak English watching Friends

‘However, without him and his production company we wouldn’t have a reunion at all so it’s a price worth paying.’ 

While The Independent was praising of the cast’s tender connection, the publication stated: ‘ Less successful are the reunion’s more celebrity-filled moments. 

‘Corden, who interviews the cast from the famous fountain they danced in for the show’s opening credits, is its Janice figure: an ear-splitting source of cringe everyone seems to be enduring rather than enjoying. 

‘He was presumably recruited based on the assumption that the reunion needed a moderator. Truthfully, though, the moments in which the cast just sit around and talk amongst themselves are often filled with far deeper and more introspective exchange.

Snapped back into fine form: Critics seemed to agree on the six stars’ recapturing their chemistry during script readings of episodes ‘The One Where Everybody Finds Out’ and ‘The One Where Ross Finds Out [That Rachel Likes Him]’

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