2:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Friends' Reunion Special Officially a Go at HBO Max
Could we be any more excited?
As megahit Friends continues to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the six core stars and the creators of the NBC comedy from Warner Bros. TV have officially closed a deal to reunite for a one-off HBO Max special. The show, along with the entire library of Friends, will be available in May when the streamer officially launches.
The unscripted reunion special will feature stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, as well as series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the cast, who all negotiated together, will earn more than double their former per-episode fee for the reunion and be paid between $2.5 million and $3 million for the special. The cast famously renegotiated their salaries together during the show's original run to earn a then-historic $1 million per episode of the comedy. (The cast also confirmed the news Friday with joint instagram posts. See new-to-Instagram Perry's, below.)
The Friends reunion immediately provides the kind of must-see TV that an upstart streaming service like HBO Max would want. Disney, for example, launched its streaming service late last year with its highly anticipated Star Wars drama The Mandalorian. That series immediately broke through the clutter and helped create an urgency to subscribe to the service.
The Friends reunion special will be filmed on Stage 24 of the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank, where the entire series was shot. Ben Winston will direct and executive produce alongside Friends alums Kevin Bright, Kauffman and Crane. The project hails from Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative TV, with Fulwell 73 Productions also attached. All six stars will also exec produce. Emma Conway and James Longman will co-exec produce.
"Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together — we are reuniting with David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire Friends library,” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max and president, TBS, TNT and truTV, said in a statement. “I became aware of Friends when it was in the very early stages of development and then had the opportunity to work on the series many years later and have delighted in seeing it catch on with viewers generation after generation. It taps into an era when friends — and audiences — gathered together in real time and we think this reunion special will capture that spirit, uniting original and new fans."
News of the reunion special, which THR exclusively revealed was a possibility back in November, arrives as Friends has found new audiences at its streaming home on Netflix. The series officially left the streamer at the close of 2019 and will make its debut on WarnerMedia-backed HBO Max when that $15 monthly subscription platform launches at a date to be determined in May. Sources say WarnerMedia paid $85 million per year for five years ($425 million) to reclaim streaming rights to Friends for its own platform. (Netflix, for its part, paid $80 million to $100 million to keep Friends on its service for 2019 and was ultimately outbid by WarnerMedia.)
Sources note that WarnerMedia Entertainment under direct-to-consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt has been the driving force pushing for the Friends reunion, which would pair well with HBO Max's debut and the comedy's new streaming home. That the cast is willing to do it is an accomplishment in and of itself. It's also worth noting that the stars have continued to drum up interest with a series of both recent and throwback photos in various mini-reunions across their social media pages.
The cast and creators, for their part, have remained steadfast over the years since the series wrapped its 10-season run that they would not do any sort of scripted revival. NBC staged a mini-Friends reunion in 2016 as part of a special honoring legendary director and producer James Burrows. Five of the six stars — save for Perry — participated in the look back that also featured the casts of Will & Grace, Cheers and The Big Bang Theory.
For her part, Aniston on Oct. 27 shot down word of a Friends reboot (with a flat-out "no"), but did tell daytime host Ellen DeGeneres, "We would love for there to be something, but we don't know what that something is. So we're just trying. We're working on something."
Aniston returned to television with the Nov. 1 premiere of Apple TV+'s The Morning Show. The drama marks her first TV series regular role since she wrapped Friends. (On The Morning Show, Aniston stars opposite her Friends onscreen sister, Reese Witherspoon.) The actress also recently joined Instagram by posting a recent photo of her reuniting with her Friends co-stars.
Friends producer Warner Bros. TV has been busy with a series of events to celebrate the show's 25th anniversary this year, with replica couches placed at landmarks across the globe, pop-ups of Central Perk, special theatrical screenings of beloved episodes and more.
A post shared by Matthew Perry (@mattyperry4) on