NEW YORK – Reports of the death of Friends after this season may be greatly exaggerated.
Flush from taking home the Emmy for best comedy and Jennifer Aniston's win for best comedy actress, TV's biggest show is the center of buzz that the ninth season of Friends may not be its last after all.
Despite the announcement last February that producers wanted to have "a farewell season devoted to concluding the series," nothing has been decided yet, a source on the set told The Post yesterday.
Others even higher up in the Hollywood hierarchy are convinced NBC isn't going to let go of Friends so fast.
"It's going to come back," a major network chief told Variety. "When push comes to shove, there's going to be too much money involved for everybody to walk away now.
"NBC's going to milk this being the final season for all it's worth, and lo and behold, it will be renewed for another year." Another small-screen suit believes the show's Sunday Emmy win for best comedy series only improved the odds that Friends will live on.
"The Emmy validates what they're doing," he said. "The cast all realizes what a great gig this is. They work 31/2 days a week, they're working with their best friends, and they're making an ungodly amount of money. As long as the stories are rich and funny, why not come back?"
"I've said all along we'd love to have another season of Friends, " NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker said yesterday. "It's up to the producers and the cast."
And now even the cast seems to be having second thoughts about calling it quits.
Shortly after winning her Emmy, Jennifer Aniston was noncommittal when asked if this was the end. "Who knows?" she said.
Aniston, who is considered to be the cast member with the best shot at becoming a movie mega-star, has been rumored to be the only one of the six actors who has not yet expressed interest in returning next year.
And last month, Lisa Kudrow told cable channel Oxygen that she wasn't quite ready call it quits. "I hope not," Kudrow said when asked if season nine would be the show's last. "You look around and you see that a lot of reasons shows finish is (that) the ratings are really bad. We were No. 1 for the first time ever in our eighth season."
A top talent agent has even worked out a scenario for how the show might return if Aniston decides to move on.
"It'll come back either with Jennifer Aniston in all the episodes or just six or eight episodes," the insider said. "And if she doesn't come back for a full season, they'll get a big feature actress like Reese Witherspoon and pay her $10 million to do six episodes."