Warner Bros. TV boss confirms a Friends reboot is unlikely to happen

The Cast Of Friends 1999 2000 Season From L R: David Schwimmer Jennifer Aniston Courteney Cox Ar
The Cast Of Friends 1999 2000 Season From L R: David Schwimmer Jennifer Aniston Courteney Cox Ar / Getty Images/GettyImages

Fans of Friends can rest easy. The comedy series, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, won't be the latest piece of IP to get a modern update. Warner Bros. TV Group chairman Channing Dungey confirmed while speaking at the Banff World Media Festival that the studio isn't open to trying to catch lightning in the bottle a second time with this property.

While you can never truly say never when it comes to IP being given a fresh take for a new generation, Dungey acknowledged that a Friends remake would be a challenge.

"I think it would be very difficult to do another Friends and call it Friends. There have been so many shows that have been inspired by Friends. That is such an iconic series and is constantly still running, so the idea that you would try to introduce a new Monica, a new Rachel and a new Ross, I don’t think that that would work."

She, of course, is absolutely right. Friends is too deeply embedded in the cultural consciousness to be rebooted at this juncture. It's not like it's a beloved series that's been rediscovered--like Suits which has a spin-off in development at NBC--or a piece of pop culture history that's been shelved and is now ripe for a reimagining.

Friends still airs nightly on television, it's wracking up viewing hours on streaming. The comedy is a comfort watch for multiple generations and it gains new fans daily. There's no real reason to reboot the show and, when it comes to capitalizing on IP by attempting another take on a known story, sound reasoning is imperative. Dungey expanded on this point:

"You have to think about why. Why are you doing it? What’s the reason to do a new version? Is there’s something about the world that has changed in a way that makes tackling it again fresh and interesting? I wouldn’t just do it for the sake of doing it…. I’ve definitely worked over the course of my career on reboots and reinventions that absolutely did not work, and probably have no reason to be done in the first place."

The world has certainly changed a lot since Friends finished its run in 2004. For one, comedies are becoming fewer and far between. And, as Rick Porter from The Hollywood Reporter put it, we're transitioning out of the era of Peak TV into Peak Franchise TV. With so much to choose from on network, cable, and streaming, audiences are increasingly gravitating toward known entities and latching onto spin-offs or the works of established creatives whose series they've already enjoyed (think Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Dick Wolf, etc.).

We're also living in particularly trying times with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still very apparent across industries, not to mention the worsening of the political and cultural divide in the United States. There's a reason why some of the most popular comedies this day and age are actually dramedies. Viewers want to laugh but often it's the dramatic hook of real world issues or life problems with high stakes that are keeping them tuned in. There's a sense of relatability and perhaps not escapism that's attracting audiences.

Then, when we get down to brass tacks, a Friends reboot just doesn't make sense for where we are in the 21st century. The updated version of the show would be populated by 6 Gen Z young adults living and loving in a New York City that's vastly different from what it was 30 years ago. Media for viewers in their 20s and early 30s has also changed. Comedies like Abbott Elementary and the cut down too soon How I Met Your Father have handled that deftly, but the writers for a Friends remake would have the unfortunate task of navigating a high bar of expectations and a clamoring for nostalgia. The latter of which they would never be able to match because coming of age as a Gen X isn't at all similar to doing so as a Gen Z.

The look and feel of a reboot would be distracting enough to be a deterrent. Friends is a product of its time and place. Trying to bring it into the modern era could be the very thing that removes the comforting element embedded into its nucleus. If there's a show that should be left untouched and standing in its legacy without an attempt to relight the flame, it's this one.

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