The rumours have been tugging at the souls of fans for months. It was on. Then off. Then kind of on again. Even the Ross and Rachel comparisons are wearing thin.
There has been a clarion call for a reunion since the show’s finale, which aired in the USA on May 6 in 2004. To give some idea of the volume of the call over 50 million watched this last episode in the USA alone.
But will the NBC show on 21 February be episode or gathering? Commemoration or Central Perk? Matthew Perry or Matt LeBlanc?
Perry (Chandler) has thickened the plot further by, after announcing his absence from the show, stating on Radio 2 on Friday that a new Friends episode could still be on the cards.
To make sense of the confusion of this tumultuous timeline it's best to look back to the beginning of the saga.
22 April 2015
Courtney Cox (Monica), 51, seemed to shoot down any possibility of a reunion when she exclaimed to Yahoo:
“Dear lord, let it go people, we’re not doing it! It’s just not going to happen.
“We’ve gotten about 80 per cent there, but there’s always one person who flakes at the end.”
On the same day (weirdly) Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman reinforced this message when she told Wrap “the show is over”.
“That show was about a time in your life when your friends are your family. Once you begin to have a family of your own, that is no longer the case, and your priorities shift.”
She continued: “It’s much better that people want it, than that they get it and don’t like it. The fear is, it’ll never be what it was.”
11 December 2015
Matt LeBlanc echoed a similar concern, that the original fans would have moved on, when he told presenter Meredith Viera “Friends was about a finite period of time in your life, like after college and before your life really gets started.”
He joked that at 47 he was simply too old - “nobody wants to see Joey at his prostate exam!”
13 January 2016
However, their resistance was won over by NBC's desire to celebrate television director James Burrows, who recently directed his 1000th episode.
NBC announced the news at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in California: the two-hour show would air on 21 February.
Burrows directed 15 Friends episodes between 1994 and 1998. These included the legendary episode The One Where Ross and Rachel Take A Break: carving that phrase into the mantras of millenials' relationships.
The entertainment chairman of NBC, Robert Greenblatt, demonstrated some accurate foresight in voicing fears it would be difficult to logistically pull all six together.
Matt Le Blanc’s attendance confirmation was retweeted over 25,000 times:
Headlines around the world implied a Friends sitcom episode was going to happen. At last.
But it remained unconfirmed who else would make the show and what format it would take.
14 January 2016
The next day Perry’s publicist wasted no time in popping the bubble by informing Us Weekly that the Chandler star would not be attending the tribute. “He is in London in rehearsals for his play The End of Longing.”
Perry will act in the four-person dark comedy play he has written at London’s The Playhouse Theatre from 2 February – 14 May.
“NBC executives were aware of this prior to their TCA announcement yesterday. Matthew may tape something for the tribute,” publicist Lisa Kasteler continued. “In other words, this is not the reunion people have been hoping for.”
16 January 2016
David Schwimmer (Ross) further mutilated the dream when he told an E! reporter it was not to be in Central Perk. The 49-year-old said: “There’s no Friends reunion.
“It’s a tribute to Jimmy Burrows who we love. As many of us that can be there will be there and the casts of so many shows are going to try to be there—Frasier, Cheers, Will and Grace, it goes on. Taxi.”
So the grand reunion is to be a general-NBC-sitcom-reunion.
17 January 2016
Marta Kauffman piped up again to reinforce how the focus would be on Burrows. The producer said to Us Weekly "I will be there, but it is not a Friends reunion.”
18 January 2016
Perry then appeared on the Graham Norton show and emphasised Kasteler's statement.
“The other five are going to be on this special and I am going to introduce them from London. I’m doing the play here so I can’t be there.”
Actress Miriam Margolyes was also on the Norton show, where she confessed she had never watched Friends as she didn’t like Marta Kauffmann.
Norton then gave Perry a pornographic parody DVD also called Friends. Perry responded that he knew of another blue satire called Fiends, in which all the actors have sex while Chandler sits masturbating in the corner.
22 January 2016
Matthew Perry dropped the latest bomb to Chris Evans over his vanilla coffee on The Radio 2 Breakfast Show on Friday.
When Evans asked about the “cost” of a full-cast reunion 46-year-old Perry said: “I think we would be open to doing something like a TV special, It’s kind of really tough because we’ve ended on such a high note you don’t want to ruin it.”
“Sometimes when you do a reunion it’s terrible and it ruins the memory of the good show.”
It’s unfortunate Evans didn’t pressure him to elaborate on what he meant by a “TV special”. This could be a talk show gathering or, dare I say it, an episode on the set.
25 January 2016
While filming the long-awaited NBC show the five-strong Friends gang posed in a rare group photograph for an Instagram by Kaley Cuoco.
The five smile in the image, taken at a Los Angeles dinner for Burrows, with stars from The Big Bang Theory. These include Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Simon Helberg.
So they will be there for us! Albeit with a throng of other stars and minus Chandler.
Except he’s not Chandler anymore, but Perry – perhaps we should remember that, get on with our lives and go see The End of Longing.
Or just close the curtains and dive into all ten series – available back-to-back on Netflix here.