Could we BE anymore excited that one of TV's most popular sitcoms finally has a Lego set? No, because many of us here at Giz UK are big fans of Friends, and if The Big Bang Theory can get a set through Lego Ideas we're damn happy that Friends can too. It goes on sale this Sunday (1st September) and we managed to get our hands on one ahead of time to see whether it's actually worth buying. In short? If you're a Friends fan, then yes, but if you're not then this is all going to be completely lost on you. Unless, of course, you want a generic coffee shop for your MOC-building activities.
The first thing that clicked with the Lego 'Central Perk' set is that Lego seems to have done a lot to avoid calling it 'Lego Friends'. The official name is 'Central Perk' and the box art refers to the brand as Friends: The Television Series. I'm ashamed to admit it took me a short while to realise that's because 'Lego Friends' has already existed for several years, and naturally the company doesn't want people getting confused. Not that the New York coffee house could be confused for a brand that swaps minifigures for those ugly minidolls, so really the distinction is a bit of a moo point.
The box isn't too big and the set itself is only split into six sections (across seven bags), so it isn't a particularly intimidating build. Likewise the instruction booklet isn't particularly big, and has the usual behind the scenes sections the Ideas brand is known for. That way you can learn about how the set was designed, as well as details on all the characters from Friends - just in case you picked this up and have never actually seen a single episode.
Also the box is covered in all sorts of Friends references, including the infamous 'pivot' line from the fifth season, a smelly cat, and Joey's classic pick-up line.
Central Perk is not a difficult set to put together. There are some fiddly sections later on when you add the removable floor sections, but for the most part it's rather easy. Which shouldn't be that unexpected from a set that only has 1,070 pieces. I'd wager you could hand this over to a kid, and they'd be able to put it together given a couple of days. As for me, a grown man which much Lego building experience, I managed to put it together in just under two hours. In other words, it's really not a very difficult or time-consuming set, and you could probably get it done while watching Friends on your friend's Netflix account.
The instructions aren't too difficult to follow, even though they don't have that yellow highlighting that Lego has been rolling out to the more complex sets. It doesn't take a whole lot of room either, and despite the sheer amount of crap that was on my desk the thing that really took up space was the camera I was using to film. This certainly is no UCS Millennium Falcon which required 90 per cent of my available desk space to put together properly.
The great thing is that it also doesn't have all that many stickers. There are only five for the whole set, while the rest of the more ornate parts of Central Perk's coffee house are printed elements. That includes the logo on the window, the specials board, and so on. Which is good, because Lego has a tendency to opt for stickers wherever it can and nobody likes that because stickers suck. Admittedly the company is quite inconsistent, so perhaps a different designer would have gone for more stickers. We'll never know.
There's not a whole lot to say build wise. It wasn't so easy it was boring, but it wasn't so tedious and difficult that I resented having to put it together. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the warm weather that turned my Lego building into an a gym-like activity. Despite the fact it's a 16+ rated set, it really doesn't feel like it. Presumably that's because Friends itself is rated 12-15, depending on the season, and Lego is playing it safe. In any case, it's not a very good way to gauge difficulty.
As you can see from the images above, the set is actually a very good representation of the actual set used in the show, within reason. Obviously there are a lot of smaller details that wouldn't fit in the set, but for the most part it's very recognisable as the Central Perk from the series. In fact, there are bits that I never noticed before, like the mugs on the wall and the multi-coloured curtains by the back door. There isn't quite as much room to pose all the minifigures in appropriate places (like having Gunther stare at Rachel). Fortunately you can pull bits of the floor out to display elsewhere, like the orange sofa, and that makes it a bit more versatile for your use.
Interestingly it's been designed as a proper TV set so there are spotlights on each side, and there's no ceiling to work with. Not that there would be with a set like this, because it's not part of a larger modular build - though it easily could be with the right design.
My favourite part is the coffee machine, with all the different pieces coming together to build a pretty extravagant looking machine I never actually noticed before. The same goes for the counter and the till, though the cake stand has been swapped over with a jar of biscuits. Including a jammie dodger, which is a bit odd for an American themed set.
The outside hasn't been completely ignored either, though there isn't much there. The printed window is reversible to match your point of view, and there's a poster featuring Joey's face. At first I thought it was a remake of his infamous VD poster, but upon closer inspection it's actually an advert for Ichiban (lipstick for men) which has spread outside of Japan. I blame YouTube for that. In fact the set itself is full of all sorts of little Easter eggs, like the reserved sign that people spotted and explained why the friends all get to sit at the same spot.
The set is a nice mix of playset and display, and while there isn't a lot of room for extra stuff you could easily have fun playing around with the minifigures doing whatever it is you do when you play with Lego. Naturally the whole thing is quite a nice display piece too, even if you don't have room for the whole coffee shop, and it's good that Lego has added the option to pull bits out for you to do whatever you want with.
The minifigures are actually quite nice, and of course you get Gunther in there to complete the whole Central Perk aesthetic. And so you have someone to stand in the background and stare at Lego Rachel all day long. The minifigs themselves are a pretty faithful recreation of the characters, using a mix of new and old pieces (and face patterns) to represent the various actors in the show. Though both Gunther and Monica seem to have had the least work put into them. Their shirt designs are quite nice though, especially Gunther's wacky tie.
The only one I don't like, however, is Ross. Because Ross's default 'Ross' face terrifies me. It's the only time I've ever really clicked that minifigures don't have noses. I think it has something to do with the fact his mouth is so god damn low, compared to a regular minifigure, because his alternate face doesn't have the same terrifying reaction.
Also Chandler's default face looks an awful lot like it would work on Dustin from Stranger Things. It doesn't really work both ways, however.
The best part of the minifigures is the number of accessories you get with them. Phoebe has a guitar, Rachel a tray for her waitressing, Monica has a baked treat, Joey comes with a pizza, a pizza slice, and his man's bag, while Chandler comes with his laptop (12MB of RAM, 500MB hard drive, built in spreadsheet capabilities, and a modem that transits at 28,000 bps) for games and stuff. Gunther has a broom, but the nicest touch is Ross's keyboard, which he used maybe twice in the whole series and was terrible at playing.
For Friends fans Central Perk is a must-have set, and at £65 it's not all that unreasonably priced. Sure, it's not going to challenge you in the same way that a Creator Expert set might, but it's a nice little decorative piece that you can continually appreciate each time you look at it. Plus, the size means you can use it as a playset if you want to, and the fact that it's been built as a recreation of the set rather than a real coffee shop opens up the door for any filmy types to put together their own episodes. Or recreate existing ones, whatever takes your fancy.
And, of course, if you don't have room to display the full set, you can always pull out the floor pieces and set up the minifigs on their own for decorative purpose.
But for the non-fans out there, this set is going to be completely lost on you. There aren't any unique pieces as far as I can tell, and if you're not into Friends then you just won't get anywhere near as much out of it as someone who is. But since Friends went on for ten years, and still has enough fans to generate a billion dollars of annual syndication income, there are going to be a lot of people who would love to have this on their shelf. The fact that it's not that difficult to build also means that non-Lego people should think about picking it up for themselves.
The Lego Friends Central Perk set costs £65, and is available from the Lego store and website from 1st September.