WarnerMedia's planned Friends reunion special for HBO Max hit a major bump in the road a few months ago when it got swept up in the wave of production shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Set to be filmed on the original series' Stage 24 of the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank, the reunion is set to feature Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, as well as series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman. The unscripted look-back at the classic sitcom will be the first time the entire cast was on stage together in over 15 years, and now fans are learning when that reunion might be taking place.
Speaking with Variety at the NAB Show Executive Leadership Summit, WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer chairman Bob 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," Greenblatt 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 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."
Having a connection with the original series from its early days of development only to then find himself working on the series years later makes having the rights and filming the reunion that much more special for HBO Max CCO and TBS/TNT/truTV President Kevin Reilly: "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. 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." 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.