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For those for whom it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, there’s good news! The long-awaited and highly-anticipated Friends reunion special is hitting HBO Max (where all 236 episodes of the hit series are currently available for streaming) on Thursday, May 27! (Barcalounger chairs to enhance viewing pleasure are purely optional.) Hosted by James Corden, the episode marks the first time all six cast members will be sharing a screen in the 17 years since the show wrapped! As People magazine states in its recent cover story detailing the production, “Could we be any more excited?!”
A slew of the sitcom’s best-loved guest stars will be popping by to join in the fun, as well, including Reese Witherspoon, Tom Selleck and Maggie Wheeler (cue the “Oh my Gods!”). Justin Bieber, who was a wee six months old when the pilot aired, is also (inexplicably) making an appearance. Fans can further expect a revisit of the many locations made famous by the series, like the fountain where the opening credits were shot and the original soundstage where the cast and crew reported to work each day.
Though set in New York, Friends was lensed in Los Angeles, with many Big Apple establishing shots thrown in to help fake the East Coast backdrop. Recorded in front of a live studio audience, the vast majority of filming took place on a soundstage at Warner Bros. Studio, the lot that served as the show’s home throughout the course of its ten-year run. Several of the facility’s exterior sets and streetscapes were also utilized for outside shots.
In honor of Friends: The Reunion’s landmark debut, Dirt has gathered together a round-up of some of the most iconic sites featured on the Must-See TV behemoth.
The quintessential New York apartment building where Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) – aka Ms. Chanandler Bong – made their home, seen in countless establishing shots throughout the show’s tenure, is an authentic NYC locale.
In real life, the six-story structure, which was built in 1900 and sits at 90 Bedford St. in the West Village, is comprised of 22 units – all one-bedroom, unlike what was portrayed on TV. And while there is exposed brickwork à la Monica and Rachel’s place, per listing photos, there’s not a purple wall or transom window to be found on the premises! According to StreetEasy, the units do feature “plenty of space, high ceilings, and large windows that fill the apartments with natural light.” All the better to see ugly naked neighbors from, I guess!
The locale is no stranger to the screen. The restaurant on the building’s ground floor also popped up as Kate, Nick and Zoe’s Bistro in the 2007 romantic comedy No Reservations.
The interior of Monica and Rachel’s colorful apartment, as well as that of Joey and Chandler’s (sawed-in-half door included!) were sets constructed a good 2,800 miles away at Warner Bros. Studio, located at 3400 Warner Blvd. in Burbank. The first season of the show made use of Stage 5, but by season two, after the series had become a bonafide hit, the production moved to the much larger Stage 24, which served as its home for the nine years that followed. When filming wrapped in 2004, the apartment sets were dismantled and, sadly, no longer exist (though they were re-created for Friends: The Reunion). Stage 24, though, still stands and is now known as The Friends Stage in honor of the sitcom’s seminal success. The structure, which is also where Full House was filmed from 1993 through 1995, can be viewed in person as part of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, a three-hour interactive and intimate jaunt through the lot and its facilities. (Though the production center is currently closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tours are expected to resume this summer.)
Central Perk (“Oh, I just got that!”), the coffee shop where the gang regularly hung out, was also a set initially built on Stage 5 and then later on Stage 24. It, too, was dismantled after filming wrapped, but, fortunately, the vibrant space, with its iconic orange couch and chalkboard signage, was subsequently rebuilt for fans to enjoy as part of the Warner Bros. tour! It currently sits looking unchanged from its Must-See TV days inside of Stage 48, the lot’s interactive Script to Screen exhibit and visitors are invited to explore, take photographs and reenact their favorite scenes amongst the familiar props. Though coffee is not served on the premises – and Gunther (James Michael Tyler) is nowhere to be found! – those hankering for a cup of joe can grab one at the functioning Central Perk-themed cafe located adjacent to the set.
Fans who really want to go on a Friends location deep-dive should hit up Insomnia Cafe at 7286 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District. To hear creator Marta Kauffman tell it (as she did in a 2010 interview with the Television Academy), “We [Kauffman and co-creator David Crane] were driving along – I think it was Beverly Boulevard – and we saw a place called the Insomnia Cafe. And I remember we were talking about how that would be a cool place to have as one of our main sets … we liked the idea of something being over-caffeinated.” So central is the eatery to Friends origin story that Kauffman and Crane even initially named the show “Insomnia Cafe!”
But the coffee shop’s impact on the series doesn’t end there! The space also served as the inspiration for the design of Central Perk! Set decorator Greg Grande told Entertainment Weekly, “The idea was to have it feel like it was kind of a living room, hang out space. You know, not your typical generic coffee shop with the computers. What did they used to call them back then? Internet cafes? So the vibe that Marta and [executive producer] Kevin [Bright] and David Crane wanted was, let’s make this feel like it’s truly a comfortable, casual living room. I had mentioned to them that there was a place in West Hollywood — I still think it’s around — it was one of the first interesting coffee shops in L.A. called The Insomniac [sic] Cafe and that was kind of, in my world, the inspiration for eclectic, old, classic pieces of furniture. Nothing really matched, but there was collectible artwork on the wall, so I took that and kind of drove that point in. I made what I like to refer to as the seventh character on the show.” Indeed, Central Perk is as synonymous with Friends as Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) and Ross (David Schwimmer) themselves!
Amazingly, Insomnia Cafe is still in operation all these years later, serving up lattes and exhibiting the same bohemian vibe that so inspired Grande.
Meanwhile, East Coasters can hit up 51 Bank St. in the West Village, the former site of Arnold’s Turtle Vegetarian Cafe, the layout of which, with its corner door, also served as inspiration for the design of Central Perk. As art director John Shaffner told HuffPost, “The coffee house came about because there was a little restaurant that we used to all go down to on West 4th Street in Manhattan and it had a door in the corner. So we went to Kevin and Margaret [sic] and David and when we showed them the model and I said, ‘We want to do a little corner door like the restaurant that we used to go to,’ and they remembered it as well. It was called Arnold’s Turtle.”
The eatery, named in honor of founder Arthur Fine’s first pet, moved locales in 1985 and eventually shuttered in 1990. The space that initially housed it was most recently home to a champagne bar known as Riddler, but that establishment closed down last August. Its iconic corner doorway, though, is still in place and can be viewed from the street. As HuffPost notes, it’s “not exactly Central Perk, but, for superfans, maybe worth a trip.”
For years, the fountain where Aniston, Schwimmer and the gang danced their way into audiences’ hearts in Friends’ opening credits was maddeningly off-limits to the public. The iconic dragon-fish-flanked piece – quite possibly the series’ most seminal locale – was originally built at the WB’s sister facility, Warner Bros. Ranch (located just about a mile away at 411 N. Hollywood Way), where tours are not offered. But in the fall of 2019, it was moved to the main lot and is now a featured part of the studio tour! Portions of Friends: The Reunion were shot there, as well.
Prior to being moved, the fountain, which sat in front of a picturesque row of Bostonian-style townhouses, was a big and small screen stalwart, having appeared in such productions as Dennis the Menace, Bewitched, The Monkees, The Partridge Family and Hocus Pocus.
In its current location, in the grassy area between Warner Bros.’ Embassy Court and French Street (which just so happens to be where the Friends played rugby in season four’s “The One with All the Rugby”), the fountain popped up regularly throughout the second season of All Rise.
The office where Chandler worked as a “transponster” (“That’s not even a word!”), regularly monitoring both the WENUS (Weekly Estimated Net Usage Statistics) and ANUS (Annual Net Usage Statistics), is Manhattan’s Solow Building at 9 W. 57th St. in Midtown. The sloping 50-story structure, commissioned by and named for developer Sheldon Solow, was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft in 1974. Rising 689 feet above the ground below, the high-rise is currently “one of the most highly valued office buildings in Manhattan!”
Just steps away from the apartment building used on the series is the Cherry Lane Theatre, where Joey played Sigmund Freud to very little fanfare in the musical Freud! and landed his chain-smoking agent, Estelle (June Gable), in season one’s “The One with the Butt.” The venue, located at 38 Commerce St., was established in 1924 by a group of artists including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who lived just down the road in the city’s narrowest house at 75 ½ Bedford St.
It’s back to the West Coast for the cast’s famous season six promo shoot, in which Aniston, Cox, et al are shown walking down a supposed New York street, flanked by fire-escape-clad buildings, champagne and flowers in hand. The striking series of images was lensed on Warner Bros.’ Hennesy Street, an urban cityscape created by Academy Award-winning production designer Dale Hennesy for the 1982 musical Annie. The 13,000-square-foot “block” looks much the same today as when initially built and has been immortalized onscreen possibly more than any other section of the lot. A few of the productions to feature it include The Mask, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Two Broke Girls. Just around the corner, in a section of the set known as Tenement Alley, is where Rachel met Jean-Claude Van Damme (playing himself) in season two’s “The One After the Superbowl: Part 2.”
Another Friends locale that can be found at Warner Bros. Studio is the house belonging to Phoebe’s father. The structure appeared in several episodes, namely season two’s “The One with the Bullies,” in which Phoebe first meets her half-brother, Frank Buffay Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi). Located in the Midwest Residential Street area of the lot, the very same property was also used as the residence where Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) lived on the television series Pretty Little Liars and as Kate Beringer’s (Phoebe Cates) home in 1984’s Gremlins.
Across the street is yet another dwelling that should be familiar to Friends fans. Though the two-story site, which is a practical location, meaning that both the interior and exterior can be utilized for filming, was only featured once on the series, its cameo is quite notable. It memorably portrayed the inside of Ross and Monica’s parents’ house during flashback scenes in season two’s “The One with the Prom Video,” aka the episode where Ross and Rachel finally get together, proving once and for all that he’s her lobster – well, until their infamous “break” in season three, that is. The interior was later re-created on Stage 24 for the filming of season five’s “The One with All the Thanksgivings.” The very same structure is also known for its appearances as the residence of Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) on Pretty Little Liars and Kim’s Antiques on Gilmore Girls.
For those in need of an even more extensive Friends location fix, outposts of the pop-up FRIENDS Experience are currently running in New York and Chicago and one is also set to open in Atlanta this summer! Described as an “interactive celebration of the iconic TV show,” the two-story exhibits feature original prop pieces, costumes and more for fans to see up-close and personal. For those worried about attending the pop-up mid-pandemic, backers Superfly X, Warner Bros. Television Group and Warner Bros Consumer Products are assuring visitors that the venues are not just clean, but “Monica clean!”
This story first appeared on Dirt.com, which features additional photos.
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Jeriana San Juan