'Friends' Finale In The Can

The stars of "Friends," from left, David Schwimmer, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Matt LeBlanc pose after the show won outstanding comedy series at the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) AP

They won't be there for us anymore.

The enduring comedy "Friends," with the theme song that promises "I'll be there for you," wrapped its final episode Friday night in front of an invitation-only audience on a set veiled in secrecy, all part of a plan to avoid spoiling the surprise ending for fans.

The taping of the hour-long finale, scheduled to air in May, concluded shortly before midnight with an extended curtain call for the cast members, said a show representative who declined to be quoted by name.

Stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer were joined for the taping on Stage 24 by an audience of about 200 people. A party was planned afterward, at a secret location.

The mood this week has been "deeply emotional, very sad," Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, said Friday. "But beyond the sadness, I think there is an enormous sense of accomplishment."

The cast, which shared real-life friendships as well as highly productive salary negotiations, talked with reporters last week about the series' end.

"Looking back on all the fun ... is not going to help me leave," Kudrow said. "I mean, that's exactly what I can't be thinking about because that's the saddest part for me."

Friday's studio audience was limited to "a very special, invited guest list," Roth said. Measures were taken to safeguard plot leaks, according to the show's producers.

"There are elements that the audience will not be seeing that we'll be shooting before the audience comes in," series creator and executive producer Marta Kauffman said last week. "And then you just keep your fingers crossed that everybody lives up to what they say that they will."

If Washington can leak, however, so can Hollywood. At least one tabloid claimed that it had the "Friends" scoop (EDITOR'S NOTE: IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE TABLOID SAYS THE ENDING WILL BE, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!): parents Rachel and Ross (Aniston and Schwimmer) will reunite and husband and wife Monica (Cox Arquette) and Chandler (Perry) will become parents of twins, according to the National Enquirer.

However the May 6 finale plays out, will fans be satisfied?

"As one of the show's biggest fans, I am enormously satisfied with it. I was enormously satisfied with the script, and I certainly hope fans will be satisfied as well," Roth said.

The top-rated comedy for the past six seasons, "Friends" is going out in style. Thirty-second ads for the show are reportedly fetching $2 million, close to Super Bowl territory, according to Horizon Media, an ad buying firm.

In its 10 years, "Friends" received six nominations for best comedy series and won the award once, in 2002. A spinoff starring LeBlanc, "Joey," is set to debut next season on NBC.
  • Brian Dakss

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