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Friends reunion to debut May 27 on HBO Max (with a cameo from BTS)

They'll be there for you (a year later than planned).

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The Friends reunion special was originally planned to be one of HBO Max's biggest titles at launch a year ago. 

Angela Lang/CNET

HBO Max will start streaming a long-anticipated Friends reunion special starting May 27, bringing the cast back together on the show's original soundstage to reflect on the '90s hit. It'll also include a parade of big stars as guests -- BTS, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and others you'd probably never otherwise associate with the '90s sitcom. (Malala's showing up? John Snow? OK then.)

Before K-pop stans get too worked up, the BTS appearance is pretty brief, Ben Winston, the director of the special, noted on Twitter. "I want to manage your expectations on this - it's a really short moment from BTS," he wrote. 

The Friends reunion special was originally planned as one of the service's marquee exclusives on day one, when AT&T's WarnerMedia launched it May 27 last year. But HBO Max's original productions, like those of every streaming service, got disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The blanket shutdown of Hollywood shooting in March 2020 meant the special wasn't filmed in time for Max's rollout. Now the special will premiere exactly one year later than planned. 

The special will feature the main cast -- Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer -- and reunites them on the show's original soundstage, Stage 24, on the Warner Bros. Studio lot in Burbank, California. 

It will have a deep bench of guests, including (deep breath) David Beckham, Justin Bieber, BTS, James Corden, Cindy Crawford, Cara Delevingne, Lady Gaga, Elliott Gould, Kit Harington, Larry Hankin, Mindy Kaling, Thomas Lennon, Christina Pickles, Tom Selleck, James Michael Tyler, Maggie Wheeler, Reese Witherspoon and Malala Yousafzai.

HBO Max launched as another splashy new service in the so-called streaming wars, a year-and-a-half period when media and technology giants rolled out their own, big-budget takes on streaming TV to take on the likes of Netflix. Just like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and NBCUniversal's Peacock, HBO Max hopes its particular mix of shows, movies and originals will hook viewers on its vision for TV's future. But these corporate rivalries also affect how many services you must use, and pay for, to watch your favorite shows and movies online. 

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