It was the headline that shook Hollywood: Time magazine said last month that the cast of NBC's Friends was going to strike if producer Warner Bros. didn't ante up $100,000 per Friend per episode. Well, production starts today on the show, and the official word from NBC is that the cast reported for duty on time this morning, even though contract negotiations continue.

"They're there and having a table-read right now," NBC publicist Tara Yahm said at 11 a.m.

Of course, the cast members never publicly said they were walking out on the show that made them household names. "We're not on strike," Matthew Perry told TV Guide for a story in the latest issue. "Everybody's picture is [us] sitting outside NBC with picket signs. This is just a normal negotiation. Period. A very friendly negotiation," added Perry, who plays resident wisecracker Chandler.

The six cast members--Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer--currently take home $40,000 per show. Two years ago, as a group of unknowns, they signed on to the sitcom for close to scale--that's about $22,500 per show (although Cox may make more). Warner Bros. has reportedly offered cast members $75,000 per episode.

The Friends' demands follow the announcement of a sweet syndication sale by Warner Bros., with each episode fetching $4 million. But that deal is contingent on the ensemble remaining together for two more seasons and the series hitting 100 episodes. The cast has three years remaining on its original five-year contracts.

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