Friends Fest: Cashing in on TV nostalgia

When Friends Fest came to London last year, tickets sold outin record time. This year it’s touring the UK and it stopped off Harewood House last month, giving visitors a chance to tour Monica’s apartment and chill in the barcalounger. But are these events genuine or just blatant cashing in our TV nostalgia?

t’s been well over ten years since Friends first graced our screens, and who would have thought that in 2016 Comedy Central would be making a killing by charging die hard fans to sit on an orange sofa holding an umbrella?

The last decade has seen a massive rise in companies cashing in on our nostalgia for certain TV shows and films, with events and immersive experiences. The Harry Potter studios is a prime example, as is the sets of Emmerdale and Coronation Street which avid fans can now pay to go look around. Ever desperate to get that perfect Facebook profile pic, people flock to these experiences to stand in the same spot of the most iconic scenes in pop culture.

As cynical as I sound, I’m not necessarily saying these events and experiences are a bad thing. They’re a great way to keep our love for the shows alive, to keep appreciating them and creating new memories through them. They are great days out, a good way to spend time with family and friends, as well as make new ones.

Friends Fest, which is currently touring the UK and stopped off at Harewood House last month, allowed guests to recreate the title sequence on the iconic orange couch  with bright coloured umbrellas. You could then have a tour of Monica’s apartment, which was a pretty accurate recreation, before heading to a pretty dire imitation of the boys’ pad across the hall – apart from the barcalounger and a football table, there was little to distinguish it as a Friends set at all. After this you could head over to Central Perk, listen to someone sing Smelly Cat, pretend to pour some coffee behind the counter and of course, chill on that oh-so-famous orange couch.

The weirdest part of the set up was probably Monica’s Moondance Diner – quite an unusual choice of set considering it only features in seasons one and two- where you could buy burgers, hot dogs and fries. A waiter and waitress, acting up extravagantly to their parts, wandered around making outlandish comments and accidentally spraying customers with ‘cleaning spray’. During one uncomfortable meal, the waiter sat directly across the table from me and stared in to my eyes as I tried to eat my hot dog, and then collected up rubbish from a number of tables and told me to take the trash out. It was hilarious, if also painful, fun.

I had a great time at the event, even though I did feel that the £24 ticket was a bit steep for something which only took a couple of hours to exhaust. My main problem with the event was the lack of connection I felt with the show at the end of it. I couldn’t help but imagine the reaction of Chandler Bing if he could witness the huge queue of fans waiting in line to stand under an archway with a wedding dress on, recreating the scene in which Monica, Rachel and Phoebe prance around the apartment in wedding dresses for fun. ‘Could this BE anymore of a rip off?’ While some of the sets felt authentic and a genuine homage to the show, other parts of the event felt contrived and strangely distant from the concept of the show itself.

Companies cashing in our nostalgia for our favourite shows is always going to be a  bit of a money trap, but there are ways to do it with more authenticty and less tacky commercialism. Friends has such a great history and culture surrounding it’s fan base, it would have been great to see this on display more.

Jessica Murray


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