Months after the 25th anniversary of its launch, the cast of the iconic comedy series Friends is expected to get together for an unscripted reunion special. It will help launch the upcoming streaming platform HBO Max, where the Friends library is one of the main attractions.
Following tough negotiations, I hear Friends stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry have reached an agreement in principle with series’ producer Warner Bros. TV to do what I hear would be an hourlong special. No one would comment, but I hear each of the six stars will be paid in the $3 million-$4 million range for appearing in the special.
The total spent on talent in the special, said to be about $20 million, is in line with what Netflix has been shelling out for top comedians to headline hourlong specials, including Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres and Amy Schumer.
After some early back-and-forth between the cast’s representatives, WBTV and HBO Max last fall, the negotiations came to a standstill at the end of 2019, with the actors and Warner Bros. TV far apart on money. The impasse lasted several weeks, prompting HBO Max’s Chief Creative Officer Kevin Reilly to be very cautious when asked about the status of the special on January 15 during TCA.
“There is interest all around, and yet we can’t get the interests all alighted to push the button on it,” Reilly said at the time. “Today it’s just maybe.”
Negotiations resumed shortly thereafter, with the two sides able to bridge the compensation gap and make a deal. A cryptic tweet by Perry earlier this week whipped fans into a frenzy that the special might be announced soon.
The special, in which co-creators/executive producers Marta Kauffman and David Crane are expected to have some involvement, is designed to help launch Friends reruns on HBO Max. The streamer shelled out $425 million for rights to the hugely popular sitcom, which has emerged as one of Netflix’s biggest hits.
Friends has been in the zeitgeist with the worldwide celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary. Aniston’s selfie with her Friends co-stars Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry and Schwimmer set a Guinness World Record for the fastest to reach 1 million followers, underscoring just how hugely popular the show continues to be,
During a Friends 25th anniversary panel at Tribeca TV Festival in September, Kauffman and Crane shut the door on possible reboot or scripted reunion that would revisit the characters and stories from the hit series.
“We will not be doing a reunion show, we will not be doing a reboot,” Kauffman said. “The show was about that time in life when friends are your family,” she explained, adding that life changes when your family becomes your family.
And a reboot? No. “It’s not going to beat what we did,” Kauffman said.
Added Crane: “We did the show we wanted to do. We got it right, and we put a bow on it.”