If the looming end of ”Friends” seems a lot like a high school graduation to you you, you’re not alone. At the taping of the final episode on Jan. 23, the cast and crew passed around yearbooks, custom-made by the production staff, and signed them for each other, according to People magazine, which got the scoop on what went down that final day on the set. Among the specially invited audience of ”Friends” friends and family were Hank Azaria (who played Phoebe’s scientist beau in several episodes over the years), David Arquette (who filmed wife Courteney Cox and the others backstage with a video camera), and Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s abrasive ex, Janice. Missing was Brad Pitt; Jennifer Aniston’s husband told producers he wants to be surprised when the finale finally airs on May 6.
The yearbooks weren’t the only parting gesture for the ”Friends” family, who spent a week enduring more attempts at closure than ”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” There were gifts exchanged — the cast gave the producers inscribed Cartier watches, while the producers gave them Neil Lane jewelry (diamond earrings for the gals, cuff links for the guys). There were three separate wrap parties — a formal dinner at the Aniston-Pitt residence on Jan. 19 (featuring vintage bottles of Haut-Brion wine that producer Kevin S. Bright had bought during Season 1 a decade ago), a casual sitdown at cast hangout Il Sole in West Hollywood on Jan. 22, and a big bash for 1,000 guests on Jan. 24 at Los Angeles’ Park Plaza Hotel, at which the Rembrandts performed the theme song and the cast gave a surprise re-enactment of the pilot’s very first scene.
At the taping itself, everyone was weeping as soon as the show began, Wheeler told People. ”The tears were flowing,” she said, ”and the entire cast had to go back and have their makeup redone before starting.” Cox was so rattled that she repeatedly flubbed a line. Matthew Perry broke the tension with a perfect Chandler-ism, saying: ”Somebody is gonna get fired.”