NBC makes a deal with its `Friends'

May 15, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

A dramatic weekend standoff over the fate of NBC's "Friends" ended happily for fans yesterday as stars of the hit sitcom agreed to a deal that will keep the series on the air for two more years.

Each of the six stars -- Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow -- will receive about $750,000 per episode for the 48 episodes ordered by NBC. The actors had been asking $1 million per episode each and threatening not to return next fall if they didn't get it.

With the network set to unveil its fall schedule to advertisers in New York today, Scott Sassa, NBC's West Coast president, said he'd had enough of the actors' threats and issued an ultimatum late Friday telling Warner Brothers, the production company that makes "Friends," to have the stars signed by noon Sunday or face cancellation.

Sassa told Warner Brothers he had drawn up two schedules -- one with "Friends" in its familiar 8 p.m. Thursday time slot and one with the series missing altogether. The choice was up to the actors and the production company that employed them.

As reported Saturday in The Sun, NBC's new fall lineup will feature four new comedies, starring Michael Richards ("Seinfeld"), Katey Sagal ("Married ... With Children"), Steven Weber ("Wings"), Delta Burke ("Designing Women") and David Alan Grier.

It will also include three new dramas: "Deadline," featurings Oliver Platt as a crusading New York newspaper columnist; "Titans," a prime-time soap opera set in Beverly Hills; and "Ed," the story of a recently divorced man who returns home to Ohio.

Shows getting the ax today include "Veronica's Closet," "Jesse," "Stark Raving Mad," "Profiler," "The Pretender," "Freaks and Geeks," "Battery Park," "God, the Devil and Bob" and "Twenty-One."

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