Time is running out for fans everywhere to visit The Friends Experience: The One in Chicago before they close on May 31, 2021!
Before I get into the fun stuff, I just have to say that I did not really watch Friends growing up. Come to think of it, my family also didn’t watch much of the Must-See-TV lineup on NBC, actually. By the time, I was old enough to really start watching TV and understand what was happening, I identified more with the ABC sitcoms like Full House, Boy Meets World, etc. That being said, it’s hard to be Jewish and not be a Seinfeld fan. While I did watch episodes growing up, I more or less caught up with the show in syndication.
When it comes to Friends, I do remember watching the series finale because you almost certainly had to watch it. I also remember watching the episode where watching the episode with Winona Ryder. That’s the episode where Rachel Green kisses her old sorority sister, Melissa Warburton. Around this time (2001), my family was watching episodes here and there but not all the time. But most of my knowledge of Friends comes via the criticism in the past few years. It is not a lie to say that the sitcom did not age well. The transphobia and homophobia alone is not funny. Beyond this, co-creator Marta Kauffman herself has apologized for not doing enough about the diversity. It’s one thing for a series to be examined through the lens in which it was created but we cannot ignore that it did not age well.
David Schwimmer and Lisa Kudrow previously spoke out about the lack of diversity. Kudrow stressed that Friends should be looked at as “a time capsule, not for what they did wrong.” But when it comes to punching down at marginalized communities, it’s hard to just look at it as a time capsule. Take the transphobic humor, for instance. Kauffman would do things differently today according to a 2019 interview with USA Today. “I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms,” Kauffman said before adding that she didn’t “know if I would have known those terms back then.” Hell, I didn’t know those terms back then!
Now that I have somewhat of a backstory out of the way, the experience takes place over two stories. The downstairs features an impressive Central Perk Coffee Shop art installation. There are the rooms upstairs that are full of photo opportunities. Don’t worry, staff are on hand to take photos and there are plenty of sanitizer wipes or foam sanitizer, whichever is your preference. Upstairs and down, there are spots to make sure that you stay six feet apart from other people in the building. Masks are also required at all times.
When it comes to the Central Perk set upstairs, the couch is probably one of the 30 replica couches. The sitcom featured two couches during the run but the first couch is currently featured when you visit the Central Perk set on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Burbank. The couch on the set is also the same couch from the opening titles. If you take the studio tour, there also a couch by the fountain. I did not stop by the fountain last January so I don’t know if the couch is metal or not.
Here’s the set at Burbank for what it’s worth:
You can also study the history along the walls with blueprints, designs, Rachel’s hair styles through the years, scripts, etc. In addition to that, you can recreate some of your favorite moments in:
- The Fountain from the opening credits (actual fountain is in Burbank on the lot)
- Monica and Rachel’s purple door and kitchen
- Monica and Rachel’s window and balcony
- The Apartment Hallway
- Chandler and Joey’s living room
- The Pivot
- A recreated Central Perk with the orange couch
Whether you have a ticket or not, you can also check out the retail store on the first floor.
The Central Perk Coffee Shop Art Installation
The iconic fountain
Chandler and Joey’s Living Room
The One with the 80s flashbacks
Monica and Rachel’s Apartment
Central Perk Coffee Shop (non-LEGO)