Chinese viewers got a different show, and they’re none too pleased about it.
Those watching the much-anticipated “Friends” cast reunion special in China got a different, shorter experience than was aired elsewhere.
Viewers in China were treated to a censored version of HBO Max‘s hour and 44-minute reunion of the ’90s sitcom’s cast, one which lacked guest appearances from Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, K-pop supergroup BTS or references to the LGBTQ community or urine.
The three Chinese streaming platforms with broadcast rights for “Friends: The Reunion” — iQIYI, Youku and Tencent Video — all aired differently altered versions. IQIYI’s version was the shortest, with at least six minutes cut, followed by Tencent Video’s roughly five minutes and then Youku’s, which cut about four minutes of footage, the BBC reported.
Whether the platforms decided to cut the celebrities and references in anticipation of censorship or were following a government censorship directive is unclear, the broadcaster noted.
Gaga, Bieber and BTS have all become verboten in China for various past political incidents.
For Gaga, who performed the cafe tune “Smelly Cat” alongside Lisa Kudrow in the special, the controversial incident was meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2016, an act which Chinese authorities considered support for Tibetan separatism, leading to her being banned from touring in China.
Bieber, meanwhile, is banned for “bad behavior.” BTS became controversial in the country after the boy band’s leader made comments about the Korean War which stoked anger on Chinese social media.
“Friends” has a huge fanbase in China, and many viewers of the censored versions took to various online platforms to express their deep upset at not being allowed to view the full cut of the special.