The Friends: The Reunion dropped on HBO Max last week and, for fans, it was a retrospective look at one of the most popular sitcoms ever made. The core cast all returned to talk about making the show, share some behind-the-scenes details, relive some of the funnier moments and just mostly bask in the celebrity that once accompanied a show that was firmly part of the zeitgeist. But not everyone loved the reunion with a whole country balking at some parts of it. Those in China saw a different version of the Friends reunion with the country’s censors taking out chunks of the program for its audience.
The issue for Chinese authorities in charge of censoring what ends up going on the air in the country didn’t have to do with the actual Friends cast themselves. Rather, it had to do with some of the non-Friends guests who were invited to take part in the reunion. There were those who appeared in the show who have run afoul of the Chinese government before and had segments or cameos were removed. These included scenes with Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and the South Korean boyband BTS.
There were other scenes from the Friends reunion that were cut in China which didn’t meet up with some apparent standards they have around decorum. This included a reference to urination made on the show as well as Matt LeBlanc being pictured in his underwear. All of these scenes were cut for the Chinese audience, giving a somewhat incomplete picture of the reunion.
All three of the aforementioned artists who had scenes cut been on the radar for Chinese authorities for some time now. On the Friends reunion show, Lady Gaga appeared to do a rendition of the famous Phoebe song “Smelly Cat” but her performance was cut. That’s because the singer and actress has been banned from appearing or touring in China because of her association with the Tibetan Dalia Lama. That dates back almost five years now.
Additionally, Justin Bieber appeared on the Friends reunion dressed as a potato. He was zero years old when Friends first started its run so this appearance makes total sense. He’s also been banned in China after the Beijing Culture Bureau said he had “bad behaviors” when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine in the country. That got his scene cut. And BTS had a song cut as well from the Friends show. They’ve been said by China to promote bad behavior as well.
In China, Friends (called F.R.I.E.N.D.S. for their viewers) has been a wildly popular show for years. The millennial generation especially appears to love it with some even saying it’s been helpful in having them learn English. The reunion was highly anticipated in China and did have some residents upset that scenes were cut. So no, Friends wasn’t banned. But some friends of Friends definitely didn’t make it up on to the screen for the whole show.
As for the Friends: The Reunion or “The One Where They Get Back Together” was mostly well-received when it appeared on HBO Max last week. Fans will appreciate some of the stories and behind-the-scenes insight into the show even if the cameos and drop-ins became a little much.