| The cast of Friends. (Reuters)
Los Angeles, Dec. 22 (Reuters): After dropping broad hints in recent months, the six cast members of Friends have agreed to return for a 10th season of the hit comedy next year, Daily Variety reported on its website.
The trade paper said the NBC network will pay the show’s producer, Warner Bros. Television, about $10 million an episode, making Friends by far the most expensive prime-time show in history.
Warner Bros. had been charging NBC close to $7 million per episode. (At its peak, medical drama ER cost $13 million an episode, but that is an hour-long show.)
However, the salaries for Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer will stay pegged at $1 million per episode each, Daily Variety said.
Unlike previous tense negotiations, the key issue this time was the number of episodes that will be shot, the paper said. The stars were reportedly unwilling to shoot a full 22 episodes, although the paper said NBC was still hoping for a complete season.
Paradoxically, the Friends renewal is not financially lucrative for either NBC or Warner Bros., Daily Variety said.
NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., merely staves off a major ratings blow for another year; Warner Bros., a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., has already sold the show into syndication, which is where the big money is made.
Friends, the second most popular show among US households this season, after CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS was named top comedy at the Prime-time Emmy Awards in September.
Aniston won the Emmy for comedy actress, only the second time a Friends star has been so honoured, after Kudrow in 1998.
The show’s stars, who are reportedly close friends in real life, have stated in recent months that they would be willing to return for an extra season. But it means that Aniston and Cox have to delay starting families with their respective husbands, actors Brad Pitt and David Arquette.
Life beyond Friends has been a mixed bag for the actors.
Aniston, considered the show’s main attraction, starred this year in the acclaimed independent film The Good Girl. Kudrow has also racked up some notable credits, while Cox starred in the blockbuster Scream trilogy.
Their male counterparts, however, have generally stumbled in their feature forays.
Friends, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, revolves around the daily travails of six buddies who lead a seemingly charmed existence in lower Manhattan.