One big story/event happening this week is the “Friends” unscripted reunion special coming up on HBO Max on Thursday night.
The whole crew is going to be there; Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, the six stars that ruled television for a good part of their epic Thursday night run on “Must See TV.”
Part of the excitement and appeal of the cast making this appearance together is they haven’t exactly saturated the pop culture landscape over the past 17 years since the show ended.
The reason why they’ve kept a low profile for the most part (except for Jennifer Aniston, who segued into a massive movie and commercial star) is because counting the money they were still making from being on the hit show from the 90’s was almost a full-time job.
You can’t spend the word “Friend$” without a dollar sign, and it’s interesting to look back at the finances of this type of network sitcom that will never, ever be duplicated in our modern world of streaming and social media.
First off, the cast was paid between $2.5 and $3 million for appearing on the special this Thursday. Which is over 100 X more than what these young and virtually unknown actors were paid when the show debuted back in 1994.
Back then, they were worried about the show hopefully being renewed for a second season. Each member of the cast reportedly made $22,500 per episode.
A typical television season lasts 22 episodes, so combined the kids took home just under $500 K for the season.
Not bad. But not even half of what they would be making per episode by the time the show hit their final season.
The increments went like this. Monica, Joey, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe and Rachael doubled their pay for Season Two. That made them millionaires.
Season 5 They hit the milestone of making $100K per episode, well earned by the way considering their massive success, and by Season 7 their weekly paycheck was $750,000 when they were shooting the show.
The crew stuck together and negotiated an across the board $1 million per episode per star for the final season in 2003.
And then the REAL money started coming in.
The show is a lasting hit in syndication. Today each member of the cast receives $20 million per year in syndication revenue.
For as popular as the show was and is, and how much money it’s generated for Warner Bros, you could say the six cast members are grossly underpaid.
236 episodes were produced, and Warner makes roughly $1 billion per year on the show now.
The year is 2002, it’s Thursday night, and you rush home to catch the latest episode of Friends. Now get ready for it to happen all over again. Friends: The Reunion is streaming May 27 on HBO Max. #FriendsReunion pic.twitter.com/1ZrHq4HxSM
— HBO Max (@hbomax) May 19, 2021