After years of speculation, rumours and hopes, the cast of Friends are finally reuniting, with all six major stars signing on to an unscripted special more than 15 years after the final episode aired.
The one-off programme was intended to be ready for the launch of new US streaming service HBO Max, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused major filming delays.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Recent reports suggest that the one-off programme is likely to be filmed in August, on the condition that there has not been a second spike in cases.
Even still, there will be strict guidelines in place to ensure the safety of the cast and crew, which have required one major sacrifice to be made to the originally envisioned set-up.
Here’s everything we know about HBO’s Friends reunion.
Will there be a Friends reunion show?
Yes! It’s hard to believe it after years of false rumours and firm denials, but the Friends cast are getting back together for one last time in the set that housed the sitcom for its decade-long run.
Murmurs of a special return began emerging in early February, as Deadline reported the six main stars had been locked in “tough negotiations” over the project.
Later that month, an official announcement came to the excitement of fans around the world, who had recently been celebrating the 25th anniversary of the show’s initial premiere.
When is the Friends reunion released?
The reunion was originally scheduled to land on HBO Max back in May, but HBO was forced to delay filming on the unscripted Friends special due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
WarnerMedia Entertainment head Bob Greenblatt told Variety that he wanted the event to be watched by a live audience and not filmed via webcam.
“We do think there’s a value to having a big, raucous live audience to experience these six great friends coming back together,” he said. “We didn’t want to just suddenly do it on a web call with six squares and people shooting from their kitchens and bedrooms.”
It looks like he will only get half his wish. In June, co-creator Marta Kaufmann told The Wrap the show could film in the iconic studio lot in August, assuming that there hasn’t been a second spike.
But while the Friends reunion does look likely to go ahead as a physical event, it has had to drop the inclusion of a live studio audience as it simply wouldn’t be responsible at this unique time.
Recent reports suggest that strict guidelines will be enforced at the reunion, meaning all of the stars will be tested for COVID-19 and asked to isolate until the results come back.
If the special does indeed film in August, RadioTimes.com predicts the special will probably be released in autumn/winter and almost certainly before the end of the year.
Which cast members are returning for the Friends reunion?
It’s The One Where… All the Friends Return. Back in February, HBO Max confirmed that the ‘friends’ – Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer – will all reunite for the documentary special.
The big question is: will there be any surprise cameos? The pandemic has decreased the likelihood of that, but it’s possible the crew could line up cameos from the likes of James Michael Tyler (Central Perk’s Gunther) or Maggie Wheeler (Chandler’s unshakeable ex, Janice).
How much are the Friends cast getting paid for reunion?
It was previously reported that the six stars will each pocket a hefty sum of over $3 million for the appearance, according to Deadline, while the documentary will help promote HBO Max, HBO’s upcoming streaming service.
Speaking on Friday 21st February, HBO Max boss Kevin Reilly said: “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 [for US viewers].
“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.”
What will the Friends reunion be about?
The special, which will be available to watch on premium subscription service HBO Max, will be an unscripted reunion featuring all six ‘friends’, with the show’s original creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane also being involved.
Being a documentary special, we will not see the cast reprise their beloved roles, but instead chat about stories from behind-the-scenes.
Friends is currently available to watch on Netflix for UK subscribers.