Friends may have ended more than a decade ago, but even with inflation, the co-creator of the classic NBC sitcom says the cast’s record salaries remain “kinda ridiclous.”
Marta Kauffman was on a Netflix showrunners panel for Grace and Frankie at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday when she was asked about how streaming service’s refusual to release viewership numbers impacts contract negotiations — with her experience on Friends as a point of comparison.
“A million dollars an episode, let’s be honest, that’s kinda ridiculous,” Kauffman said. “That’s a lot of money. It’s inflated. And there’s something unrealistic about it … If someday the cast says, ‘we’re worth more than you’re offering,’ then we’ll deal with it then. At this point, everybody’s in and everybody’s in wholeheartedly.”
Kauffman claimed that the trend toward shorter seasons, like on Netflix, are also helping keep salary demands down. “We’re all doing is more reasonable and makes more sense,” she said. “When an actor is doing 13 episodes, they have many weeks left that they can pursue movies and theater and other stuff. So I think that really helps people not feel like they have to get a car every time they do an episode.” (Or in the case of the Friends cast, a new luxury home for every episode).
Friends was averaging an incredible 25 million viewers per episode—and, of course, at the time that was all live viewing, not delayed—when the cast recieved their historic salary boost in 2002.
Last January, Friends co-star Matt LeBlanc took a swing at the question of whether the cast was worth such weekly mega-bucks. Talking to HuffPost Live, the actor said, “Were we worth $1 million? To me, that’s such a strange question. It’s like, well, that’s irrelevant. Are you worth it? How do you put a price on how funny something is? We were in a position to get it. If you’re in a position in any job, no matter what the job is—if you’re driving a milk truck or installing TVs or an upholsterer for a couch—if you’re in a position to get a raise and you don’t get it, you’re stupid. You know what I mean? We were in a position and we were able to pull it off. ‘Worth it’ has nothing to do with it.”