Friends ended on May 6, 2004, 10 years after the show's premiere in 1994. But the ultra-popular series' fortunes didn't stop there. After spending several years in syndication all over cable and broadcast television, the series found itself on Netflix. An entirely new generation of viewers discovered the show, launching its acclaim all over again. By the time it left Netflix on Jan. 1, 2020, it was the most-watched streaming show on the service. So it's no surprise it's relaunch on HBO Max will kick off with a reunion special. But what will the Friends reunion be about? Fans might be surprised.
A Friends reunion special was something of a no-brainer for HBO Max to work towards making a reality. Warner Bros. scored a coup in getting the rights to the series back in time for the HBO Max launch. With no significant HBO Max original shows premiering at launch (at least as of this writing), doing something related to promoting the return of Friends to streaming was the right call.
Moreover, this is the era or the revival and the reboot. The return of the original Roseanne cast, reuniting 25 years on for new episodes, brought ABC 20 million viewers on average in its first season. A modern revival of Friends reuniting the cast after 15 years would surely do in the same ballpark.
But it turns out that's not actually what the Friends reunion is going to be. According to Reality Blurred, the one-off episode is an "unscripted special," or as they put it, an episode that should be entitled "The One Where They Get Paid to Sit Around and Talk About The Show."
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly said in a press release:
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 [which] 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.
In short, the cast, who are all reportedly getting paid in the $3-4 million range apiece, will head over to Studio 24, hang out on the Central Perk set, drink coffee, and gossip about the old days.
On the one hand, the cast has remained close over the last decade and change, and their easy chemistry almost certainly will make this a must-watch for the hardcore Friends crowd. But for those who hoped this special would lead to the full-on Friends revival a la Will & Grace, perhaps set your expectations a little lower. This special is The One Where They Refuse To Go Down That Road.