As quickly as COVID-19 pandemic numbers change, so can the plans of television productions looking to get back to work. Earlier today, things were looking cautiously optimistic that Friends cast members Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, and series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, would be getting back together pretty soon. Even with a studio audience heavily in doubt, reunion special production company Fulwell 73 partner Leo Pearlman said he expected to be filming within the next two weeks (which seemed in line with Schwimmer's earlier comments to Jimmy Fallon).
That all changed Friday afternoon, as various outlets reported that there is now no set date or timeframe for the special to film. As sad as it is to have to keep delaying the reunion, Aniston told Deadline Hollywood that the important thing is to do it right- and that means doing it when it's safe for everyone: "It's [the special] going to be super. You know what? This has also given us more time to make it even more exciting and more fun than it would have been. So I choose to see it as the glass is half-full that it got postponed. Look, we're not going anywhere. You're never going to get rid of Friends, sorry. You're stuck with us for life guys. Unfortunately, it's very sad that we had to move it again. It was, 'How do we do this with live audiences?' This is not a safe time. Period. That's the bottom line. It's not a safe time to do it."
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.