It’s been 16 years since Rachel got off the plane. In February, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer announced on Instagram that HBO Max will launch their highly anticipated reunion special.
It seems like New York City is essential for some major plot points in the show. They gather in Central Perk, after all. But, what would it look like if the friends moved 1,000 miles west and lived in Columbia, Missouri?
The iconic Friends apartment exterior is on Bedford Street in Manhattan’s West Village. This neighborhood is known for being the hub of art and culture during the 20th century. With this in mind, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross live in north central Columbia, specifically in the North Village Arts District. Every month, Phoebe tries to present her creepy half-doll art piece, Gladys, during First Fridays, but instead she charms people with a live performance of "Smelly Harlan" at Fretboard Coffee.
After growing up spoiled and naive, Rachel decided to become financially independent after leaving her fiance at the altar. So, she became a waitress at Central Perk, but in Columbia, she is a barista at Lakota Coffee Company. It might not have the classic orange couch, but Lakota has the brick interior, eclectic art and homey feeling that can draw in groups of friends for hours at a time. On the weekends, she helps men find the perfect suits and ties at Binghams Traditional Clothing.
"I don’t think Rachel would be a good worker at Lakota because Lakota is usually busy, especially during the mornings, and requires working quickly while keeping a good relationship with customers," says Bella Corona, a supervisor at Lakota Coffee Company. "Rachel wasn’t very good at her job and would most likely get stressed out during rushes."
Monica is primarily a chef. She worked at several different eateries, from a 1950s-themed diner to high-end restaurants. In Columbia, however, Monica is a cook for Peachtree Catering. She helps develop the weekly brunch menu for Peachtree’s health-conscious brick-and-mortar, Beet Box. Also, Monica is a freelance food critic for St. Louis’ Feast Magazine. Her articles don’t have any errors because she meticulously reads and cleans them before sending to her editor. She also convinces the gang to walk to Breakout CoMo some weekends, promising that she won’t get too competitive and ruin the fun again.
Phoebe fits in with Columbia’s quirky scene. Every year, she makes her own Q Queen costume for True/False Film Fest and volunteers for as many films as she can but then wonders whether or not those volunteer shifts are "selfless good deeds." She goes on long runs — more like gallops — around Stephen’s Lake Park. During the day, however, she is a massage therapist at Life is Sweet Massage Therapy.
"We think Phoebe would dig our local, non-corporate vibe and lack of Pottery Barn furniture," writes Meaghan Lee, a massage therapist for Life is Sweet. "However, given her history of seducing clients and speaking in accents that aren't her own, we don't think she'd last very long at Life is Sweet."
Every morning, Ross sprints from Columbia College to the University of Missouri, where the paleontology and biogeochemistry classes he teaches between the two campuses are mere minutes apart. His students in MU’s Geological Sciences building usually know he’s getting close by the sound of him wheezing and panting as he sprints down Ninth Street. He’s still getting over that time he miscounted "Mississippis" during his spray tan at Bronze by Design … but as Chandler likes to joke, he might as well have gotten a tan on the sun.
Chandler wants to keep his career a mystery to his friends. However, he just accepted a new job working as a City Information Technology Manager; he leads other IT professionals and works in statistical analysis and data configuration. He survives on his charisma and sarcastic sense of humor. Because he is within 15 years of retirement, he hopes that if he keeps his head down long enough, he can coast through without anyone noticing. His middle name, Muriel, was accidentally put on the government website, too, but he can’t figure out how to take it down. He thinks Ross set it up as a prank.
"This position is considered one of the top 'hot careers' in the IT industry these days," says Dan Rose, a manager of geospatial services for the city. "Chandler has no idea what 90% of this means ... other than the phrases 'well-paid' and 'hot career,' which caught his eye immediately."
Columbia doesn't have any major sound stages for soap operas, but Joey shines brighter on a smaller stage. Last year, he portrayed Freud in "Bumbling Around the Psychiatric Couch" for GreenHouse Theatre Project. He is well-known at the India's House lunch buffet, but most nights he makes an appearance at all four of Columbia's Sub Shops to load up on some late-night meatball subs.
The Friends reunion special does not have a specific release date yet. But, the special and the series' 236 episodes will be available to subscribers when HBO Max launches this May.