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Friends reunited: the one where they try to get along again

SCENE: Central Perk coffee shop, and the gang is all there.

Chandler: Wow, could this BE any more unlikely? Us getting back together for a reunion?

Phoebe: More unlikely than all of you suburban nerds being friends with me, a formerly homeless hippy who doesn’t understand any of your references and has a tendency to make awkward references to your collective privilege and my struggles? OK, sure.

[Slightly uncomfortable silence. Monica pats Phoebe’s shoulder, Rachel gives her a coffee. Fixed it.]

Ross: No but, come on, guys. The show ended, what, 15 years ago? We’re all each still making [heavy pause for emphasis] $20m A YEAR from just the re-runs.

Joey [spits out coffee in a very naturalistic way]: Say what now?

Ross [knowing smile, same intonation – he knows a new Ross catchphrase is being born]: $20m A YEAR.

Joey [jumps up from the sofa in a totally unexaggerated, very naturalistic way]: Then why the hell did I sign on for that Top Gear garbage? I need to call my agent!

[The gang all laugh. Classic Joey!]

Monica: But wait, come on. Do we even know if this reunion is actually happening? Hey, did I mention I once was fat? That’s almost as funny as Phoebe once being homeless! The 90s were weird.

Chandler: It’s not just a reunion, it’s “an unscripted reunion”, a phrase only slightly more ominous than “rail replacement bus service” or “untitled Matthew Perry project”. I mean, could this BE any worse of an idea?

Rachel: Now wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Are we really doing this? Like, REALLY?!

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Chandler: Well, I don’t know, Rachel, let’s look at your Instagram – which you suddenly joined for no reason at all last month. Oh, what’s that? A photo of all of us together, capturing a totally natural and spontaneous moment of definitely genuine friendship. Could your Instagram BE any more of a PR job?

Rachel: Hey, it’s not just me, Chandler, OK? Look at Monica, posting photos of the two of you going out for a totally casual lunch together like the BFFs you definitely are. Could you BE any more caught out?

Monica: I just wanted a photo of a nice moment! And also to remind the public that Chandler’s TV career used to consist of more than him arguing about drug addiction with Peter Hitchens on Newsnight.

Ross: Yeah, one of the writers really needed to SERIOUSLY punch up that script.

Phoebe: Hey! Hey! That reminds me of a song I wrote: “Never get into an argument with a Hitchens / You’d be better off banging your head on the floor in the kitchen / Christopher did go on a bit / And Peter! Even! More!”

Joey: That was great, Pheebs!

Chandler: Seriously, is she our charity case? An exchange student from outer space?

Rachel: Ohhhhh wait a minute, have you guys seen this? [Opens copy of a celebrity magazine. All the gang lean over her shoulder to read.]

Ross: According to an unnamed source, Matthew Perry has always been in love with Courtney Cox …

Rachel [loud gasp and double take]: Oh my God, just like Chandler and Monica on the show! [Screws up her eyes and starts to talk in a squeaky voice. This is how the Friends cry.] What an amazing coincidence!

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Phoebe: And it says here he never got over it! What else does it say?

Joey: Sorry, I can’t read.

[The gang all smile and shake their heads fondly. Classic Joey!]

Rachel: Look, I don’t want to make this all about me. But let’s admit it, it is. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the story was that David Schwimmer had always been in love with Jennifer Aniston. I mean, Ross and Rachel, Poor Jen anyone, hello?

Joey: Yeah, Rachel, I don’t know how to tell you this, but David Schwimmer is married.

Monica: Also, no one actually wants Rachel to end up with Ross. Ross is a monumental douchebag. It’s bad enough you once went out with Vince Vaughan.

Ross and Rachel: Hey!

[Both pause and think about that.]

Ross and Rachel: No, that’s fair.

Chandler: Boy, I can’t wait for more of these stories over the next year. Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow spotted in Pottery Barn buying an Apothecary table. David Schwimmer snapped going out for fajitas. Jennifer Aniston making a capsule line for Ralph Lauren. Could this BE any more stage-managed?

Phoebe: OK, but look, here’s what I don’t understand, OK? For the past 15 years, every time one of us has given an interview, we’ve been asked about a reunion. And now here we are, giving the people what they want. But they don’t seem, like, I don’t know, happy?

[The gang all ponder this for a moment. It is perplexing.]

Ross: Well, you have to understand, Pheebs, that no TV reunion has ever gone well in the history of time. Back in the Palaeolithic era there was show called This Life, and the awfulness of its return a decade later traumatised an entire generation. Similarly, in the Mesozoic era was a show called Sex and the City, and let’s just say that bringing it back in movie form – twice – did not improve on the original. Then, if you really want to go back to the beginning of the universe, there was The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island and Leave It to Beaver, none of which had good reunions.

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Rachel: God, Ross, you’re so boring with your science blah blah blah.

Ross: You’re just annoyed because David Schwimmer is married so our agents can’t plant any David’n’Jen stories in the press

Rachel: Just because the show was off the air didn’t mean you were allowed to get married, you know.


Chandler: Could this reunion BE any more predictable?


The Whitney we don’t get to see very often

Small break from the usual Lost in Showbiz proceedings here to unironically celebrate a celebrity story. This month, Robyn Crawford – Whitney Houston’s best friend and long-rumoured girlfriend – broke her decades-long silence with an upcoming memoir, A Song for You: My Life With Whitney.

Robyn Crawford with Whitney Houston

Robyn Crawford (left) with Whitney Houston: a rare paragon of steadiness and common sense. Photograph: Courtesy of Robyn Crawford

Let’s get the not exactly astonishing revelation out of the way first: yes, Crawford and Houston were lovers, and Crawford decided to speak about it after Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, died in 2015. Now, I have sat through a lot of Whitney documentaries – Kevin Macdonald’s last year, Nick Broomfield’s the year before, both of which can be described with the very technical term “meh”. Crawford declined to talk to either of them, and has instead given her big interview to Lena Waithe in Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine, which is published this week.

One doesn’t want to get bogged down in identity politics – in the Guardian? Heaven forfend! – but it’s undeniably pleasing that Crawford decided to share her story with a black queer woman, in a magazine published by another black woman, instead of handing it over to two white men. And it’s rather fortunate for Macdonald at least that she didn’t talk to him, given that she scoffs at what is presented as the big revelation in his film, that Houston was sexually abused by a female relative.

Instead, Crawford comes across as one of the few people who has written and spoken about Houston who actually knew her and cared about her. Too often, “my famous friend” memoirs seem like exploitative cash-ins, but Crawford’s feels like a genuine effort to reclaim Houston from the voyeuristic takes, showing that she was more than a tragic druggie, and instead was a woman who loved deeply and made some bad choices. As for Crawford herself, she comes across as a rare paragon of steadiness and common sense and someone Houston was lucky to have known.


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