Like many television productions over the past several months, WarnerMedia and HBO Max's Friends reunion special has had a bit of a bumpy ride while trying to get cast members Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, as well as series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, back together to celebrate the modern classic sitcom. Last month, Schwimmer said that they would have a better idea in "another week or two," and it looks like he may have been right.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline Hollywood, reunion special production company Fulwell 73 partner Leo Pearlman offered an update on production. While specific details have been tucked away in a "no spoilers" box, Pearlman says they are preparing to shoot within the next two weeks: "We're very excited for that." One aspect of the reunion that might not make the cut is one that WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chairman Bob Greenblatt (and fans) won't want to hear: a live studio audience. From the Fulwell 73, Pearlman doesn't see studio audiences returning until at least 2021 (with the production team working up alternatives for the Friends reunion): "We're assuming that even 2021 doesn't have audiences that we are used to for any of the shows that we make. If that changes, then great. The only way it changes is if you have a vaccine."
Speaking with Variety at the NAB Show Executive Leadership Summit back in May, Greenblatt revealed that filming on the special could take place by the end of the summer. "At first we thought, shows will be delayed for a month or two at the most, and now it seems like it's going to be far longer than that," he explained. "We're holding out for being able to get this special done hopefully by the end of the summer if the stars align and hopefully we can get back into production. We do think there's a value to having a big, raucous live audience to experience these six great friends coming back together and we didn't want to just suddenly do it on a web call with, you know, six squares and people shooting from their kitchens and bedrooms."
While he did say even then that the reunion "may go more to a virtual route if it is delayed too long," Greenblatt would much prefer to wait as long as possible for the kind of reunion event both the fans and cast want: "At the moment, we're trying to look to the future and get this thing done in a more conventional way, and I think it's worth waiting for. We would have loved to have had it on [HBO Max on] Day One, but at the same time, if we can get it launched in the fall, I think it'll be something that we can have the audience really looking forward to as well." Ben Winston is set to direct, and executive produces alongside Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry, Schwimmer, Crane, Kauffman, and Kevin Bright. Emma Conway and James Longman will co-exec produce. Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative TV serves as the studio, with Fulwell 73 Productions also attached to the project.