"Friends" reunion evokes nostalgia in Chinese fans
The highly anticipated reunion special of the American sitcom "Friends" has taken its massive Chinese fanbase by storm with a nostalgic and tear-jerking tribute to the all-time hit series.
The unscripted, one-off reunion episode, "Friends: The Reunion," brings together the sitcom's six stars on screen for the first time since the series went off the air in 2004. It premiered on several Chinese streaming platforms on Thursday afternoon.
The reunion special skyrocketed to one of the top 10 trending topics on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Thursday night, with a bevy of netizens saying the reunion has allowed them to "relive their youth" or simply expressing their longtime affection for the series.
As of 3 pm Friday, the "Friends" reunion has a score of 9.5 out of 10 on China's leading film rating platform Douban.
The charm of "Friends" drew more than 40 diehard fans to a Central Perk-inspired coffee shop in downtown Shanghai on Thursday afternoon to watch the get-together as soon as it was released.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," said Zhou Yunsheng, who was present at the screening party. "I even asked for leave from my company to watch the reunion."
The 31-year-old said he has been a devout "Friends" fan since high school and claimed he could recite famous lines from the show by heart.
Yang Yi, the manager of the coffee shop, said he had received many phone calls in the past week about arranging a screening event at the shop.
"This is nothing short of a festival for 'Friends' lovers," said Yang.
STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE
From Phoebe's hit song "Smelly Cat" and table reads of the sitcom's iconic scenes, to the unresolved conundrum of whether or not Ross and Rachel were "on a break," the "Friends" reunion has taken a legion of Chinese fans on an emotional stroll down the memory lane.
Fang Xue, a 26-year-old English teacher based in Beijing, said she could hardly hold back her tears when the theme song "I'll be there for you" started to play when the episode began.
"Though the actors have apparently aged and they weren't playing their characters, they had good old chemistry just by sitting on the sofa and reminiscing about the past," said Fang. "It feels like they have always been there for me."
Fang said she started watching "Friends" in her freshman year as an English major at a Beijing university, at the recommendation of a classmate. Like many Chinese students, she first watched the series to learn colloquial English, but quickly found its charm beyond the academic realm.
"It opened my eyes to a different lifestyle and a new culture and, before long, I was seeing the six characters as my own friends," she said.
Ji Yi, a Shanghai-based IT engineer, said she has watched the entire "Friends" series over 10 times.
"The series' 10th and final season already gave a proper ending to the characters when everyone was in the prime of their lives, and I don't want that to unravel," said the 27-year-old. "I'm just happy that the actors helped me relive some of my most cherished memories from the show."