Friends is never coming back – and as a fan, I'm grateful

Friends: there for you then, but not now. Photograph: AP The cast of Will & Grace may be on the verge of a reunion, but Courten...

Friends: there for you then, but not now. Photograph: AP
The cast of Will & Grace may be on the verge of a reunion, but Courteney Cox has given Friends fans the ultimate gift: confirmation that the comedy will never return. “It's not gonna happen,” she told David Letterman emphatically on Monday night.
And praise the Central Perk gods that be, because TV reunions rarely live up to the hype. Take Growing Pains and its cast, who, after the series ended in 1992, teamed up for not one, but two (two!) terrible TV movies. Equally cheesy was each Brady Bunch reunion, while in terms of disappointment, 2000’s Mary and Rhoda trumped them all – especially since the ABC film based on the famous 70s characters barely mentioned the lives they’d lived during their weekly episodes. Imagine a Friends mini-movie with no mention of their coffee-shop hangouts or inability to afford Hootie and the Blowfish tickets. Or one in which they explore the meaning of family, instead of the joy of poking Ugly Naked Guy. Imagine Gunther still in love with Rachel, but after 10 years, even more bitter and alone. No thank you.
Sex and the City and its follow-up films exemplify the problem with reviving a classic: while the first movie sought to answer every remaining question (albeit poorly – as if Carrie would reunite with Big after he left her at the altar!), the second promptly undid all that work. By Sex and the City 2, each character had evolved into a caricature. By the end of Friends, the gang had all grown and become a different person from the one they had started out as. Ross was finally ready to support Rachel and her career, which had taken her a decade to achieve. Monica had helped Chandler overcome his fear of commitment, Phoebe was comfortably on her own path, and Joey was moving to California.
Matt LeBlanc Joey
How you doin'? Not so well without his Friends, actually. Photograph: FIVE
If there's ever a sign that Friends should be left intact and untouched, it is Joey. While Joey Tribbiani was a likeable character, he was part of a whole. When he was taken off to LA to go it alone, and when viewers saw him out of the Friends ensemble, it fell flat. Rachel helped bring out Joey’s sensitive side, Chandler helped round Joey out, Ross introduced to him logic, Monica offered food (and reason), and Phoebe was his partner in crime. His solo sitcom's low ratings and critical drubbing suggested we weren’t willing to see each friend on his or her own path.
In fact, I don't want to see where the rest of the gang have ended up. A lot has changed since the series ended in 2004, and the show was very much a product of its time. We saw the characters dealing with voicemail and laptops and cell phones, but do we really want to see Ross’s Twitter profile or Monica’s super-stacked LinkedIn? We don’t need to see Ben in college, or Emma in high school. We don’t need to know why Paul Rudd left Phoebe for Leslie Mann. What we do need is to accept where each character ended up, and then to leave them in that place. A reunion would only spoil the magic – or, if it followed in the footsteps of Sex and the City, establish them all as classist racists who speak only in puns. Will & Grace, take note: you know you're too good for that.


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