Scott D. Pierce: Is The Friends Experience at Gateway worth the price of admission?

Could it be any more of a selfie-friendly walk through the familiar locations of a beloved sitcom?

(Original X Productions) The opening-credits fountain in the Friends Experience.

Shortly after I walked into The Friends Experience at The Gateway, I burst out laughing. Not in derision, but in delight.

When I saw the orange couch in front of the fountain — as seen in the opening credits of of the 1994-2004 sitcom “Friends” — I was charmed. Same with Joey and Chandler’s apartment, Monica’s kitchen, the hallway between the two apartments, the stairway with the “pivot” couch, and the coffee shop Central Perk.

As an obsessed “Friends” fan, it was all great fun for me. After all, I’ve seen every episode dozens of times, and I still laugh a lot. I still have great fondness for the characters: Chandler (Matthew Perry), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Monica (Courteney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Ross (David Schwimmer).

When NBC aired the final episode in May 2004, I wrote: “What non-fans didn’t get was that these were more than just ‘Friends.’ This was a family. … A lot of us made ‘Friends’ a part of our family, too. And we’ll miss them.”

It didn’t require great foresight to note that we would “watch the repeats over and over again for years and years to come” — the show was already a hit in syndication — but almost two decades ago I never envisioned that “Friends” would win generations of new fans streaming on Netflix and Max. And they’re part of the target audience for The Friends Experience. They do love to take selfies.

As I pointed out in a previous story, The Friends Experience is not a museum. You’re supposed to sit at Monica’s kitchen table; sit in Chandler and Joey’s recliners; sit on the couch in Central Perk; pretend you’re trying to get the couch to “pivot” and go up the stairs — and take selfies. (Or pay an extra fee to have pictures taken for you.)

(Original X Productions) Fans hang out in Central Perk in the Friends Experience.

It’s not a huge attraction. You could get through it in a few minutes, if you so choose. But don’t go too fast, or you’ll miss stuff. Take the time to watch the video of the costume designer talking about how she came up with the looks for the characters. Play the trivia game — a touch-screen version of the game Ross put together that resulted in Chandler and Joey winning Monica and Rachel’s apartment.

(Some of the questions are pretty easy, and some are tough. Even for someone who’s watched each episode dozens of times.)

I could quibble over details. The re-created sets aren’t exact, but there is no way anyone who’s ever seen the show would mistake this for anything other than what it is.

And, you know what? Back in the day, I visited the “Friends” set on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, and I attended a couple of tapings — and, in person, the set didn’t look exactly like what we see on TV. No set does.

Is it worth the $26.50 admission price? Well, not if you’re not a “Friends” fan. You folks won’t get much out of it.

And if you are a fan, don’t go alone. Better to go with other people who are, at the very least, familiar with “Friends.” You’ll have the best time if you go with a bunch of people who are obsessed fans.

And make sure you check out the merchandise. One of my daughters accompanied me to the preview, and I pointed out several things that would be excellent Christmas presents for me — the coffee mug, the cookie jar, the baseball hat, etc. (My children always ask and are annoyed when I can’t come up with suggestions for them.) There’s also a pretty good chance my almost-1-year-old granddaughter will be getting a Hugsie stuffed penguin.

Get your tickets here

The Friends Experience is located in The Gateway, at 16 N. Rio Grande, Salt Lake City.

Tickets are $26.50, and are available at FriendsTheExperience.com.

(Photo courtesy of NBC) Ross (David Schwimmer), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Monica (Courteney Cox), Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) celebrated Thanksgiving in nine different episodes of "Friends."

Took a while to win me over

I was not an immediate “Friends” fan. Way back in 1994, I did not give the then-new sitcom a particularly good review. I didn’t hate it, but I did sort of damn it with faint praise: “Oh, it’s OK. But it’s certainly nothing to get excited about.”

I maintain to this day that the pilot episode of “Friends” wasn’t great. It suffered from the not-uncommon ailment of trying to introduce six main characters and be funny at the same time. And critics only got to see one episode before we wrote our reviews.

I could’ve been more wrong, I suppose. After the initial appearance by the cast and producers before members of the Television Critics Association, one grumpy old TV critic loudly opined, “They’ll write out two of those characters by Christmas, and it still won’t work.”

FILE - This Sept. 22, 2002 file photo shows "Friends," castmembers, from left, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc after the show won outstanding comedy series at the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Castmembers of the popular show have announced that five fans will get a chance to watch the reunion taping live. The sweepstakes offer is being presented by The All In Challenge and all proceeds will go to No Kid Hungry, Meals on Wheels and America’s Food Fund, which benefits Feeding America and World Central Kitchen. The minimum bid is $10. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Matthew Perry made fun of me

Early in the run of “Friends” — I believe it was January 1995 — the cast returned for another appearance at the TCA press tour. The show was a huge hit by then, and a hot topic for TV critics.

I wanted to know when Aniston, Cox, LeBlanc, Perry and Schwimmer realized that “Friends” was not only a hit but something special. Particularly because all the cast members had been in far less successful, quickly canceled shows before “Friends.”

That list includes Aniston in “Molloy” (canceled after five episodes), and “Ferris Bueller” (13 episodes); Cox in “Misfits of Science” (16 episodes); Perry in “Second Chance” (nine episodes) and “Boys Will Be Boys” (12 episodes); LeBlanc in “Top of the Heap” and “Vinnie & Bobby” (seven episodes each); and David Schwimmer in “Monty” (six episodes). Only Kudrow had never been a regular in a TV series that quickly bombed, because, before “Friends,” she had never been a regular in a TV series.

Anyway … I had what I thought was a good question in my head, but it didn’t come out very well. Something like, “You were all in shows that bombed. When did you know ‘Friends’ was different?”

“Well,” Perry replied, “I suppose all your TV columns are perfect.”

He got a big laugh. Including from me.

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