HBO Max is in negotiations with the cast and creators of Friends to try to put together a reunion special, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The special is described as “unscripted,” and the cast and creators have always been adamant about not making any more Friends episodes, so the idea is presumably something more along the lines of “Behind the Laughter” than Twin Peaks: The Return. But everything is still in extremely early stages, and no deals have been signed.
The special would reportedly feature Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, the actors who played the “friends” mentioned in the title of the original series, which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004. For more on the show’s premise and the characters each actor played, here is the cast explaining Friends to Katie Couric in 1994:
David Crane and Marta Kauffman, who created Friends, are also going to be involved in the reunion special in some capacity. This is not the first time producers have tried to reunite the show’s cast: NBC held a mini-reunion in 2016, although Matthew Perry wasn’t able to make it in person. And back in 2014, Jimmy Kimmel got Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, and Courteney Cox together on a replica of the original set for a sketch that was more about fan fiction than Friends:
So what’s interesting about the Friends reunion special is not the possibility that the cast of Friends might be getting back together, but the fact that HBO Max is interested in producing a Friends reunion special to begin with. Over the summer, WarnerMedia spent big to outbid Netflix for the exclusive streaming rights to the series: $85 million per year for the next five years. They wanted it, and were willing to pay that much for it, because they need exclusive content for their upcoming HBO Max streaming service, which launches in May. Now HBO Max is trying to create new Friends content of whatever type they can, and it is probably not a coincidence that this news broke the same day Disney+ launched. That service advertises itself as the exclusive home of Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, and is producing new exclusive content for two of those three properties. In an ideal world, a competition between streaming services—an entire distribution system that didn’t exist 10 years ago—would be producing new films and TV shows as upstart companies took risks other brands couldn’t. What seems to be happening instead is a bidding war on sure things. On the other hand, we might get a Friends reunion!