‘Friends’ reunite with tears, laughter, memories and the truth between Rachel and Ross

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow are seen during the "Friends" reunion. Courtesy of HBO Max

From “Smelly Cat” to whether Rachel and Ross were “on a break,” the “Friends” reunion on Thursday takes fans of the hit TV comedy series on a sentimental journey down memory lane.

“Friends: The Reunion” brings stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc back to the set for a tearful get-together 17 years after the final episode of the show about the lives of 20Somethings in New York.

A slew of guest stars ranging from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga and soccer star David Beckham join in for the 105-minute special, hosted by James Corden, on HBO Max. The show features bloopers, a trivia quiz, reminiscences from the show’s creators and some surprises.

After 10 years on the air and 17 years since the final episode, “Friends” still has its secrets, and one of the biggest was revealed on Thursday in a reunion special airing on HBO Max.

The on-again, off-again romance between characters Ross Geller and Rachel Green wasn’t just for the cameras.

Actors David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston revealed for the first time that they had major crushes on each other in the early years of the series, but the first time they kissed was when their characters did so on screen in 1995.

“I just remember saying one time to David, it’s gonna be such a bummer if the first time you and I actually kiss is going to be on national television. Sure enough! First time we kissed was in that coffee shop,” Aniston says in “Friends: The Reunion.”

“We just channeled all of our adoration and love for each other into Ross and Rachel,” she added.

The passionate kiss in the Central Perk coffee shop in the Season 2 episode “The One Where Ross Finds Out” is widely considered one of the highlights of the series, which came to an end in 2004 with the two characters finally getting back together.

David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry are seen during the "Friends" reunion. Courtesy of HBO Max
Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston are seen during the "Friends" reunion. Courtesy of HBO Max

Schwimmer and Aniston said the mutual attraction lasted for the first two years of the show, but they never got together as a couple off-screen because they were both in relationships or between relationships with other people.

“We were both crushing hard on each other, but it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship. So we never crossed that boundary, you know. We respected that,” said Schwimmer.

Schwimmer recalled that “in the very first year or two when we had breaks from rehearsal, there were moments when we would cuddle on the couch.”

“How did not everyone know we were crushing on each other?” he asked co-stars Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow.

“We knew, for sure,” said Cox.

“Friends,” which began in 1994, was the top-rated comedy in the United States for six years and aired in more than 200 nations. It remains one of the most popular shows in re-runs and on streaming platforms as the finale was watched by some 52 million Americans, eight million more than watched the Oscar ceremony that year.

“Friends: The Reunion” comes 17 years after the comedy about 20-somethings living in New York City ended its 10 year run.

Re-runs gave the comedy a new life and a new generation of fans, and streaming platforms extended it.

HBO Max, which hopes the special will drive subscriptions to its year-old streaming platform, is holding outdoor screenings of the reunion special in Los Angeles and New York City, as well as a live-streamed online event for fans.

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