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Friends: The Reunion on HBO Max. When it airs, how to watch, guest stars

Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross will be there for you, like they've been there before. Oh, and BTS will be there too.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
5 min read

The Friends reunion is almost here.

Warner Media/HBO Max

They'll be there for you, even though it's been 25 years since they first went on air. The Friends of the iconic NBC sitcom -- Chandler, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross -- are together again, in a much-anticipated special called Friends: The Reunion and also dubbed The One Where They Get Back Together. The special marks the first time all six primary actors have been together in the same room since the finale aired in 2004. Here's what you need to know about the reunion. 

When is the Friends reunion airing? 

Friends: The Reunion streams on HBO Max starting May 27. In the trailer below, the cast shares laughs, memories and tears.  

HBO Max doesn't have a free trial, so you'll either need to sign up with a paying membership (currently $15 a month) or upgrade an existing HBO subscription to include Max. 

You might already have access to HBO Max and not even know it. If you currently subscribe to HBO via your cable or satellite provider, you can probably get HBO Max without paying anything extra. We explain it in detail here, but essentially, you'll need to watch on a smart TV or streaming device -- or a Comcast Xfinity box -- using the HBO Max app and your home internet connection. 

Also, after months of delay, Roku finally gave its streaming devices and TVs access to HBO Max. You can find more information here.

How the reunion unfolds

Don't expect a scripted reunion between the characters. This is a special where the actors appear as themselves. "There's nothing scripted, we're not in character," actor David Schwimmer said in April on The Graham Norton Show. "We're all ourselves, the real people."

They do, however, slide back into character reading from classic scripts. 

The show was filmed at the same Warner Bros. stage in Burbank, California, where Friends filmed since its second season. Sets were re-created to look exactly as they did years ago. 

In some segments, the six actors chat on set. In others, James Corden, host of The Late, Late Show,  interviews them outside in front of a live, socially distanced audience and the famous fountain where the opening credits were shot. 

Where did we leave the Friends?

The show began in 1994 and ran for 10 seasons. The six main characters stay friends and some become romantic partners as the show progresses. They live in New York City and hang out at a coffee shop called Central Perk.

Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, begins the series by fleeing her wedding to a man she doesn't love, and instead moves in with her best friend from high school, Monica Geller. She works at Central Perk before moving into a fashion career. She eventually falls in and out and in and out of love with Monica's brother, Ross, and the two have a daughter, Emma.

Chef Monica Geller, played by Courteney Cox and known for her cleanliness and competitiveness, lets Rachel move in with her in her way-too-spacious-for-New-York apartment. Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani live across the hall and are friends of hers. Eventually Monica and Chandler fall in love, marry, adopt boy-girl twins and leave New York City for the suburbs.

Paleontologist Ross Geller, Monica's older brother, played by David Schwimmer, is a nerdy but smart goofball. He begins the show newly single, as his wife, Carol, has discovered she's a lesbian. He has a son with Carol, and most of his romantic focus in the series involves his sister's best friend, Rachel. For a while, Ross owns a white-headed capuchin monkey named Marcel.

Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, works in a variety of (sometimes mysterious) corporate jobs during the show's run. He mostly rooms with best friend Joey Tribbiani. Monica's brother, Ross, is Chandler's college roommate. Eventually, Chandler and Monica fall for each other and end up married with twins. Before Monica, he had a memorable girlfriend named Janice Hosenstein. Could her laugh BE any more annoying?

Actor Joey Tribbiani, played by Matt LeBlanc, is often portrayed as the adult child of the group. In between acting roles, he does everything from work at Central Perk to play Santa Claus at Christmas. He loves eating and is a ladies' man, and dates Rachel for a while, eventually realizing they are better as friends. When the series ends, Joey leaves New York for LA to pursue acting. LeBlanc starred in the Friends spinoff show Joey for two seasons.

Masseuse Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow, is portrayed as dizzy and quirky, and had a tougher childhood than the others. Her mother killed herself when Phoebe was young, and Phoebe ended up living on the streets. She has a twin sister, Ursula, is a vegetarian, and sings songs she wrote herself, most infamously Smelly Cat. When the show ends, she has married her boyfriend Mike (Paul Rudd), with pal Joey officiating the wedding.

Cast reactions

The cast gathered on Good Morning America to share their excitement about the reunion.

"No one had to be convinced," David Schwimmer says. "We all wanted to do it."

When asked what the stars hope fans take from the reunion, Matt Le Blanc said, "I hope the fans walk away with a sense of what it was like for us to have made the show."

Courtney Cox said the Friends stars didn't realize how emotional it would be for them to return to the familiar set, re-created for the reunion show. "It was so emotional that we just started crying," she said.

Which guest stars will show up besides BTS?

Friends had a number of famous guest stars during its 10-year run, and the reunion is no exception. Guest stars appearing on the reunion include David Beckham, Justin Bieber, BTS, Cindy Crawford, Cara Delevingne, Lady Gaga, Elliott Gould, Kit Harington, Larry Hankin, Mindy Kaling, Thomas Lennon, Christina Pickles, Tom Selleck, James Michael Tyler, Maggie Wheeler, Reese Witherspoon and Malala Yousafzai.

Be warned, though, that the appearance by BTS is super brief. Members of the K-pop band just pop on for a moment to talk about why they're fans of the show. 

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