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‘Friends’ Going To London

Wed., Jan. 21, 1998, midnight

NBC’s “Friends” is off to London, where one of the adorable weasels will, gulp, get married. Blimey!

Minus Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), expecting her first child in May, the cast will shoot the fourth-season finale in London in March. In the two-part episode, set for May, one of them gets hitched. So, which one?

None of the executive producers - Bala-born David Crane, Broomall’s Marta Kauffman, or Kevin Bright - will speculate on the bride- or groom-to-be, but Bright acknowledges he’d be “most surprised” if it were dimwit Joey (Matt LeBlanc).

The London deal, in the works for almost a year, is “85 percent done,” Bright said Saturday in an interview during the TV critics’ winter meetings. “Friends” is a huge hit in England on independent Channel 4.

Bright says London “was strictly our idea.” Kauffman says the Brits came to them. Crane says he doesn’t know. In any case, production costs will be split among NBC, “Friends” producer Warner Bros., Britain’s Channel 4, “and anybody else who wants to chip in,” Crane says.

According to Bright, the producers were looking for the right opportunity to take their show on the road.

“We didn’t want to do ‘Diff’rent Strokes Goes to Russia,’ where it’s all basically shot on location,” Bright explains. “If you do that, the show loses its rhythm and loses what makes it successful.”

Instead, “Friends” will follow its usual production schedule in England, from script readings to rehearsals to two tapings of each episode in front of a British studio audience.

As for possible awkward silences instead of belly laughs during the tapings nobody seems worried about differences in American and English humor.

The fact that “Friends” is already successful in England “gives us a little sense of security,” Bright says. “It’s been proven that they appreciate the humor of the show. I guess we were British and didn’t know it.”


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