‘Friends: The Reunion’ involves new revelation about Ross and Rachel, but lack of diversity remains unaddressed

“Friends” ended in 2004, but it still ranks as one of the most-watched television shows ever. More than 52 million people watched the finale. Well now the friends are back at Central Perk — middle-aged and maybe more into decaf — in a special that first aired Thursday on HBO Max.

“There’s still a lot of pent-up nostalgia for the show, and people still want to see these six actors in a room together talking about that experience,” says NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. 

Do audiences discover anything new about “Friends” with this special? “The juicy gossip that we learned is that Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer apparently have some sort of thing for each other when the show started. They both admitted it during the reunion. But apparently they were each kind of involved in different romances during the time when they were interested in each other, and they never actually consummated it.”

He points out that all six actors were executive producers on this special. “All six of them earned over, I think, $2 million each to do it. And so they had a lot of control over what questions would get asked and what ground would be covered.” 

One major issue during the show’s entire history: glaring lack of diversity. Aisha Tyler does not appear on the reunion, though she guest-starred in nine episodes. 

“I think that's the problem when you put the six stars on as executive producers: They seem to avoid bringing up any subject that might have been contentious or might have made anybody uncomfortable,” says Deggans. “And the show's vision of New York as a place for middle-class 20-something white people was always a controversy. It was a controversy when the show was on the air. It's been a controversy now that the show's been popular in streaming and reruns. And really, it's something that they should have faced, they should have talked about it.”