Plus Jane Fonda, Eric Stoltz, and the latest news from the TV beat

Longtime Friends?

Hold onto your La-Z-Boy: Turns out the cast of Friends is open to coming back after this season, but they ”want to be wowed” with sexier salaries and scripts, a source says. Last month, the cast was unimpressed with an offer to extend their contract for what insiders say was little more than what they currently earn (Warner Bros. TV upped their per-episode salaries to a whopping $750,000 last year.) But even if all the Friends don’t eventually extend their run, one source close to the actors believes the studio is okay with moving ahead with only four of the six stars (a Warner spokesperson denied the rumor, saying the studio wants the entire cast back). Sources are predicting another protracted negotiation, while the creators remain cautiously optimistic. Executive producer David Crane recently bragged about the sitcom having staying power, because Rachel’s pregnancy ”really energized the show.” True, but isn’t that what they said about the final season of Mad About You?

Fonda’s Square Deal

What does a Vietnam War-protesting Academy Award winner who just divorced one of the richest men in the world do for an encore? A game show, of course. Look for Jane Fonda in the top left corner of Hollywood Squares during a sweeps stunt scheduled for Nov. 5-9. An avid tree hugger, Fonda agreed to do Squares with Rob Reiner and Ed Begley Jr. in honor of a special environment-themed week. ”It felt fun,” says Fonda, who was prepped by funnyman Bruce Vilanch before the show. ”I asked him, Is it better to give the answer or to be funny? He said it’s up to me.” Bad advice: When host Tom Bergeron asked, ”What Shakespearean play tells the story of a ruler who is driven mad when he hands his kingdom over to two of his daughters?” Fonda’s answer of ”Hugh Hefner, this is your life” didn’t exactly bring down the house. Still, Squares executive producer Whoopi Goldberg was thrilled about Fonda’s appearance (”she’s game for anything”), especially since attracting celebs to the show isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Admits Goldberg: ”It’s always a very difficult process, because most people look at doing a game show as some sort of commentary on their career.” Gee, ya think?

AND SO ON… From the art-imitating-other-art file: Eric Stoltz will show up for seven episodes of ABC’s Once and Again (beginning Sept. 28) as a drama teacher who becomes ”intimately involved” with his lovesick junior high student Grace Manning (Julia Whelan), which just happens to be a theme behind Stoltz’s upcoming film The Rules of Attraction. The latter also stars Dawson’s Creeker James Van Der Beek…. Elton John will appear as himself on the Nov. 19 episode of Ally McBeal, playing a few of his old standards at Ally’s infamous watering hole.