One missing clip was a duet between Lady Gaga and Lisa Kudrow as they sang her character Phoebe’s jingle, “Smelly Cat.” The Chinese shows were also missing memories of BTS members watching the show when they were younger and an appearance of Mr. Bieber disguised as “Spudnik,” as the character of David Schwimmer did in one episode. .
The special, which premiered Thursday on HBO Max in the US, brought together the cast of the 1990s sitcom for memorabilia and performances. It was a major viewing event in China, where the series is appreciated, in part by a millennial generation who grew up watching it on DVD and often used it to learn English. The sitcom was so popular that in major Chinese cities it spawned fan cafes resembling the show’s cafe, Central Perk.
Some fan accounts on social media noted that the length of each version of the special varied, depending on the streaming site users watching it, a likely indication that online video platforms had cut the show off. ‘themselves to avoid any potential problems with Chinese Internet regulator vigilance.
The incident is the second reminder in a week of the power China wields over Hollywood stars and Beijing’s willingness to cut celebrities off from its huge market if they stray from its political dogma. This week, John Cena, the professional wrestler and a star of the latest “Fast and Furious” movie, apologized after referring to Taiwan as a country in an interview. China considers the autonomous island to be part of its territory.
Faced with the shutdown of business in China and its precious box office, most celebrities have tried to stay away from sensitive topics in China, like Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang and the protests in Hong Kong.