A TV Review by Tim Riley


Running on NBC for ten seasons and a total of 236 episodes, “Friends” gained acclaimed as a sitcom about the lives of six close friends in their 20s and 30s living and working in Manhattan.On HBO Max, the six primary cast members return after seventeen years for “Friends: The Reunion” for a real-life celebration of the beloved series and are joined by show creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman.

The series starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. According to the credits, the reunion marks only the second time all of them have been together in one room since the series finale.

Moderated by late night talk show host James Corden (who incidentally really adds nothing of interest to the show by his lack of insightful questions), “Friends: The Reunion” is a nostalgia trip for the cast members.In some respects, the reunion seems more like a nice payday for the primary cast members and those involved in the production rather than delivering incisive revelations. But then, it’s great to see the sets on Stage 24 recreated in all their glory with the apartments and Central Perk.

While the show creators dropped a few notable morsels about casting, one of the best disclosures was how Aniston and Perry were committed to other shows that flopped so promptly as to free them up for “Friends.” The special cuts back and forth, often with jarring effect, from vintage clips to celebrity cameos (Tom Selleck notably for his role in the May-December romance with Cox’s Monica) to an array of spontaneous recollections from the cast. Probably most revealing of all was Perry’s remembering that he felt like he was going to die if the audience didn’t laugh, noting that he would “sweat and just go into convulsions” if there was no laughter.

More casual television viewers may not be drawn to this reminiscence of the popular series. Devoted fans that connected with “Friends” will find delight in the show clips, bloopers and cameo appearances of characters from Maggie Wheeler’s Janice to James Michael Taylor’s Gunther. As a demonstration of “Friends” global reach, one of the more interesting aspects of “The Reunion” had to do with earnest testimonials of avid fans from countries ranging from France to Ghana to Slovakia and elsewhere.

Friends: The Reunion,” though it may shed not enough insights on happenings behind the scenes, is obviously geared to the passionate fan base that probably realizes a similar gathering won’t happen again any time soon.


Ovation TV, America’s only arts network, is planning a summer of “Secrets & Crimes” with film and drama series pairings every Monday night. Episodes of “Street Legal,” “The Brokenwood Mysteries” and “Mystery Road” are part of the programming block.

The episodes are planned to air following a range of widely known films, such as “The Usual Suspects,” “The Bank Job,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” (hopefully the Steve McQueen original), “Fargo,” and “Pulp Fiction,” to name a few. A character-driven legal drama that follows the professional and private lives of a group of ambitious lawyers at a start-up firm in Toronto, “Street Legal” stars Cynthia Dale as Olivia Novak, now a named partner, who is deep into a massive class-action lawsuit.

Three tenacious young lawyers at a rival firm challenge Olivia and her usual methods. Cara Ricketts, Steve Lund and Yvonne Chapman have blind-sided Olivia by stealing her case right out from under her.Crime apparently runs rampant in a small rural New Zealand town in “The Brokenwood Mysteries” series. Neill Rea’s Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd and partner Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) investigate the mystifying and macabre crimes that hit the town. The first episode takes Shepherd on an investigation of the death of a local farmer found in a river, where he uncovers a family’s tragedies and secrets, and learns that Brokenwood is a place where shadows lurk just beneath the surface.

The Australian outback is the setting for the six-episode “Mystery Road” series. At the remote town of Patterson, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) arrives to investigate a mysterious disappearance from a cattle station, thinking he’s got an easy three-day job.But it soon becomes clear this is not a simple case. Jay now has to work with smart, tough local cop Emma James (Judy Davis). Born to a wealthy pastoral family and proud of her pioneering history, Emma’s life is embedded in the town, but she harbors her own secrets.For a crime series, the “Mystery Road” has the feel of a soap opera, as the investigation uncovers a past injustice that threatens the fabric of the whole community. There’s also the tension that arises even between Jay and Emma trying hard to put their differences aside.

Both “Street Legal” and “The Brokenwood Mysteries” debut in June, with the former on Tuesday, June 8 and the latter on Tuesday, June 29. “Mystery Road” arrives late in the summer on Tuesday, August 24.