The coronavirus pandemic has changed the production game throughout the world. With theatres shutting down and people kept in lockdown, things seem pretty grim. To add to this grim reality, Friends, the famous 90s sitcom, will not be premiering with HBO Max, as previously announced.
WarnerMedia had announced with much fanfare about the reunion, which made fans all over the internet celebrate the return of the infamous group that had been their companions in more ways than one. However, with production to a standstill, that seems to be a distant dream.
WarnerMedia have now announced that the unscripted Friends reunion will not be available when the platform launches – a date which will be determined in May.
Some shows have recently started to record their episodes via Zoom and other telecommunication software. However, the show’s six stars and creators will not be getting together in this manner for Friends. The episode was previously supposed to be shot on the show’s original soundstage, Stage 24, on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank.
The Friends reunion special was supposed to be filmed on March 23-24. The original star cast including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer as well as series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman were all supposed to get back together for the special episode. However, like most other TV series and films, production shut down on March 18. Other than animation and voice work, every other production has faced the same fate.
HBO Max said in a statement, “We want to share some background information about the production dates for the upcoming unscripted Friends reunion special for HBO Max. As was previously reported, production is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the special will not be available on the streamer on Day 1 of launch. But it is coming! The cast and producers are all very excited to go into production, as this will be the first time since the show ended that the whole cast will be together, and on the original sets to reminisce. There are loads of great surprises in store and lots of rare behind-the-scenes footage they are eager to share. We will keep you informed as plans solidify and once we have a firm premiere date. Lastly, in order to avoid any misunderstanding about what this special is, we want to make it very clear that this is not a new, original episode of the series. The cast will be appearing as themselves, not as their beloved characters. And though fans will have to wait a bit longer for the reunion, they can watch all 236 episodes of the series on day one of HBO Max launch in May!”
For the streaming rights of Friends, WarnerMedia had reportedly paid over $400 million in a bidding war with Netflix.
The Friends reunion is the kind of content that provides a push to services like HBO Max, to kickstart it in a highly competitive market. Disney had done the same during the launch of Disney+ last year. The highly anticipated Star Wars drama The Mandalorian was the selling point for Disney+, and the plan worked wonders for the streaming service which just crossed 50 million subscribers worldwide. Similarly, Apple used the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon drama The Morning Show to its advantage during the launch of Apple TV+.