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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Fans applaud Friends finale

By Peter Bowes
BBC correspondent in Los Angeles

The Friends have sat on their sofa for the last time
Millions of fans of hit TV comedy Friends watched as it came to an end in the US on Thursday after 10 years.

Warning: this article contains details about what happened in the final show.

It would have taken a brave team of scriptwriters to pen a final episode of Friends that did not have a happy ending.

Predictably, they went for a crowd-pleasing show that saw Rachel in the arms of Ross and a sentimental farewell to the New York apartment the friends have called home for a decade.

After months of hype, the sitcom came to an emotional end with an hour-long episode.

It was part of a full night of Friends celebrations on the NBC network. The first hour was a look back at the past 10 years - the trials, tribulations and dramas in the lives of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Phoebe, Monica and Joey.

After the main show, comedian Jay Leno presented a special edition of the Tonight Show with the sitcom's stars on the Friends set.

The show was a US institution
"This is like very serious for a lot of people," said Leno.

"There are those who say, 'oh we can't go on without Friends,' they won't be able to go on without Friends, but it can be done. I mean President Bush went into Iraq without friends," he joked. "Okay, bad example..."

The show itself was full of twists and turns, with Ross seemingly on the brink of losing Rachel to her new job in Paris. She gets as far as boarding the plane, but ends up professing her undying love for Ross.

"We're done being stupid," Ross tells Rachel as they hug. "Unless we're on a break," he added, to the delight of fans.

"It was a good ending, it was an exciting ending and emotional at the same time", said Jonathan Moore, who was among 3,000 fans who attended a special screening in New York.

"It was sad - I liked it."

One surprise is when Monica and Chandler, who have long been planning to adopt a baby, end up with twins. "We only ordered one," said a shocked Monica.

It all ends with the six friends giving up their apartment keys before leaving for one last coffee. "This is harder than I thought it was going to be," said Monica.

Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston
LeBlanc (left) will have his own spin-off series

Bryan Carney, a 30-year old fan of the show in Los Angeles, reckons he has seen every episode. He got together with a group of his friends to watch the final instalment.

"They have lived with us for so long, for like 10 years - that's our whole growing up. For me it's been my whole 20s, so watching them go off and do their own thing, I feel like it's meant to be. But I will miss Thursday nights," he said.

However, Mr Carney was not impressed by the quality of acting in the final episode.

"They weren't as alive and vibrant as they normally are. I think they were saddened by it," he said.

The show's stars sat down with the writers to watch the show for the first time as it was broadcast.

"It was overwhelming - fulfilling, satisfying, funny, sad," said Matt LeBlanc on the Tonight Show.

"It was a fantastic show," added Courteney Cox Arquette.

"I pride myself on being a real man, but I shed a few tears," admitted Matthew Perry. "I hope the entire country is moved by it emotionally - to see these relationships wrap up is too much to take."

The final show in the UK will be screened on Channel 4 on 28 May.

The BBC's Tom Brook
"Will this final episode of Friends mark the end of the TV sitcom as we know it?"

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