During its first big presentation in November, the AT&T/Time Warner-owned HBO Max announced that, among other things, it would be bringing the cast of the hit Warner Bros. Television series Friends together onscreen for a reunion special celebrating the show's history and legacy. While it was not going to be an in-universe story -- the actors would be speaking as themselves, not returning to the roles that made them household names around the world -- the prospect of getting the whole gang back together again had fans excited -- and raised immediate questions about how doable it might be to take that next step and actually see the characters again.
Fans were barely over their excitement that it was going to happen when rumors started to circulate that, actually, maybe it wouldn't happen. Things looked a little iffy for a while there, but current reporting is that the relationship wasn't over -- just on a break -- and that the special is back on. If so, though, series star David Schwimmer isn't talking about it.
"First of all, I'm so glad I finally get to answer this question," Schwimmer joked during an appearance on BBC's The One Show. "I really wish I could confirm or deny. There's nothing official to report."
In recent years, as Friends took on a new life on Netflix, Warner Bros. brass have consistently said they wanted to do "The One Where the Gang Gets Back Together" or whatever they would end up calling a reunion special. The cast have, to varying degrees, been open to it, although it has been rare that more than one or two seemed enthusiastic about the idea at the same time.
Friends was a cultural juggernaut, but more than that, it was a series that now feels somewhat ahead of its time, blending the week to week sitcom shenanigans with over-arching storylines that kept audiences hooked. It took a page out of the soap opera (or comic book) playbook, and foreshadowed a trend that would take over most big TV shows in the years to come. It also meant that while Seinfeld may have had more awards on its shelf, it's Friends that gets binged more nowadays. It was, along with The Office, one of the biggest losses that Netflix has faced as the streaming wars have started to heat up -- and maybe even more significant than The Office, since that show has always had digital distribution, whereas Friends ended, was available only on DVD for a while, and then made a huge splash when it came to streaming.
The HBO Max streaming service blends classic Warner Bros. properties like Friends and Looney Tunes with new projects like the planned Green Lantern and Strange Adventures shows based on DC Comics properties. The idea is for it to compete with Disney+ and give Warner Bros. a steady source of income from the growing direct-to-consumer streaming market that does not rely on licensing its most valuable properties away to competitors like Netflix, Amazon, and the Disney-owned Hulu.
HBO Max will launch in May, and while anything still not completed in February would usually feel like a longshot to be there at launch, the nature of the Friends special -- reportedly unscripted and documentary in nature -- is theoretically something that could be shot and edited in a manner of days or weeks rather than months. So stay tuned for more details.
What do you think? At this point, do you think the reunion special will manage to get off the ground? Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter at @russburlingame.
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