Few TV shows in the history of the medium have been more aggressively pursued for, well, more than NBC’s former ratings juggernaut Friends. Back in the day, NBC head Jeff Zucker had to all but beg the show’s stars to come back for a final season (a request that came with a hefty million dollars per episode per Friend to help grease those particular wheels), and the streaming status of the show’s extant 236 episodes remains a topic of both constant speculation, and regular 9-figure deals between major media companies.
All of which raises the question: Is HBO Max, the show’s Warner Bros.-owned future digital home, ever going to bite at the potential for some kind of Friends reunion? “Maybe” was the answer given to this most pertinent of conundrums at the TCAs today, as the streaming service’s CCO, Kevin Reilly, announced that there’s a bit of trouble getting “the interests all alighted to push the button on it,” which sure sounds like a fancy way of saying “Everybody wants too much money.”
The other open question lurking at the heart of this revival obsession—i.e., “Who the hell is this even for?”—remains a yawning, nostalgia-filled abyss, though. None of the show’s six leads seem like they’re in any great hurry to present 50-somethings version of the ’90s’ hottest 20-somethings for the camera, and the stories of each of these characters has been pretty definitively told. (No matter what all the Joey heads out there might try to lead you to believe.) Meanwhile, people who just want to see these six particular people standing near each other are welcome to sign up for a Getty Images account and a Photoshop license (or just sign up for Jennifer Aniston’s Instagram account); it’s not like the world is lacking for Friends content, even with the series temporarily off the streaming airwaves.
And yet, there’s still this sense of weird inevitability to this whole project, a shrugging assumption that a Friends reunion—whether as a limited series reviving the characters, or just some kind of retrospective special—must exist, and so it will. Honestly, we’re impressed by Reilly’s commitment to that non-committal “Maybe”; he must have been halfway tempted to slump his shoulders and admit that, yeah, fuck it, some kind of Friends thing is going to happen no matter what anybody involved in this process wants.