“Friends” is the latest television show to get rebooted as full-length feature, but it represents the worst side of programming. Compared new material, reboots are a relatively low risk bet.
The sitcom aired from 1994 until 2004, lasting ten seasons. It was one of the most popular TV shows of all time. So why not a reboot?
After all, it worked with HBO’s hit “Sex and the City.” The popular cable show was warmed over in two movie reboots. Both were commercially successful, if ravaged by critics.
Even so, a third film, announced in December 2016, was scotched. Show star Sarah Jessica Parker personally put the kibosh on the film.
There is one big difference, however, between the SATC films and the planned “Friends” reboot–time.
“Sex and the City” ended in 2004 and the first movie followed four years later; its audience could still related to the characters.
“Friends” ended its run on television in 2004. The reboot is slated to air on cable in 2021, nearly 17 years after the program went off the air.
The show’s stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer are all in their 50s–and so are their fans.
The formula that made the show successful featured 20- and 30-something characters who were trying to build careers and find out who they were. The shared the hopes and angst of a generation. But deep into middle age, how could the characters possibly represent their generation now?
That presents a central dilemma for the show’s writers. Should they try to recast the characters as they were, or show them as they are?
And what makes them think their fans, now caught up in jobs, children and soccer practice, will relate?
Schwimmer, who played Ross, confirmed in an Instagram post that the cast had agreed on a “Friends” special. TV suits are now talking about a 12-part series set to air in 2021.
“This reunion has been 18 months in the making. Cast and crew have been made to sign rigid non-disclosure agreements to keep everything as fresh and exciting as possible,” a source reportedly told the UK Sun newspaper.
“It took a long time to convince Matthew and Jennifer in particular to get on board. But once these two were signed up, things moved pretty quickly.”
The proposed 12-part series could be worth as much as $1 billion.
“Officially, the deal has been signed for a one-off. But the hope is that once everyone sees how well it’s received and how much love there is for the show, another series will be agreed and commissioned.
Schwimmer, who cast doubts on a revival, may have had the best idea for a reboot. Use an all-black or all-Asian cast who are trying to come of age in the 21st century.
“I just don’t think it’s possible, given everyone’s different career trajectories. I think everyone feels the same, ‘Why mess with what felt like the right way to end the series?’
“I don’t want to do anything for the money. It would have to make sense creatively and nothing I’ve heard so far presented to us makes sense.
But apparently money was the biggest motivator for the reunion. The original cast is reportedly being paid millions of dollars each to do the show.
HBO plans to use the reboot to kick off its new streaming service.