While it’s difficult reconciling one’s self with the death of beloved actor Matthew Perry — who brought the witty, sweetly-sarcastic character of Chandler Bing to life in the sitcom Friends for 10 seasons — it seems a fitting tribute to reflect on him through the incredible and extensive body of work he’s left behind from TV series to hit movies to theater.
In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, Perry discusses his illustrious acting career that spanned from his debut in a 1979 episode of the television drama 240-Robert to the 2021 miniseries (not only playing Ted Kennedy, but producing as well) The Kennedys: After Camelot. In between, he was seen in 14 films (the last being 2009’s 17 Again), 39 TV shows and on stage in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago as well as his self-written The End of Longing.
Perry helped mold Friends into one of the most iconic and beloved sitcoms of all time, proving he had a unique talent for lighting up the small screen and delighting millions of viewers who tuned in week after week. In fact, the Emmy-nominated and SAG Award-winning actor starred in seven other TV series between 1987 and 2017. Here, we honor his humor, wit and creative genius with a look back at them all.
1. Boys Will Be Boys (1987-1988)
Perry’s first television series was originally called Second Chance, in which he portrayed Charles “Chazz Russell,” who is actually the younger version of his deceased older self (played by Kiel Martin).
Dying in a hovercraft accident in the future, the power beyond decides that he doesn’t deserve to be in Hell, but isn’t ready for heaven, so instead he’s sent back to Earth circa 1987 to try and guide his younger self to make better decisions in life.
Ratings were low and a few months after its debut, it was completely reformatted into Boys Will Be Boys, removing the older Chazz element and focusing instead on Perry’s young Chazz and the adventures he gets into with a couple of friends. Obviously one version had nothing to do with the other with the exception of the character’s name. Very odd. Second Chances/Boys Will Be Boys aired for 21 episodes between September 1987 and May 1988.
2. Sydney (1990)
Valerie Bertinelli plays Sydney Kells, is a private investigator who comes from a family of police officers. Relocating her detective agency to her hometown from New York, she finds her biggest client to be lawyer Matt Keating (Craig Bierko), with whom there’s sexual tension that she tries to deny. At the same time, she has to deal with an over-protective brother named Billy, played by Matthew Perry. Thirteen episodes aired between March and June of 1990.
3. Home Free (1993)
Matthew Perry plays unmotivated freelance journalist Matt Bailey, who has to develop a new sense of responsibility when his divorced sister, Vanessa (Diana Canova from the sitcom Soap), moves back into the home of their mother, Grace (Marian Mercer), where he still lives. Vanessa brings along her two kids, and therein lies the challenge for Matt.
While his inclination is to continue living life on his own terms (which usually involves a lot of partying with his friends), he’s suddenly thrust into the position of role model. The show aired from March 31 to July 2, 1993 for a total of 13 episodes.
4. Friends (1994 to 2004)
During its decade-long run between 1994 and 2004, and over the course of its 236 episodes, Friends not only evolved the idea of what an ensemble television sitcom could be, but gave us a core group of six friends who, as funny as each of them were (and they genuinely were), actually proved themselves to be much more than joke machines. They became flesh and blood characters we could identify with and whose journeys in life we could effortlessly follow and laugh along to. Perry, of course, is Chandler Bing, a guy who hates his job in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration (how’s that for a job description?) for a multinational corporation, yet remains there until season nine when he becomes an advertising agency’s primary copywriter. He and fellow “friend” Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) gradually fall in love and marry in the seventh season, adopting twins as the show comes to a close.
Friends allowed Perry to hone and unleash his comic (and dramatic) skills, whether it be in delivering one-liners or championing a combination of sarcasm and snark. With the news of his passing, watching him, Courteney, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffay), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani) and David Schwimmer (Ross Geller) is never going to be the same again.
5. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006 to 2007)
Having worked with Matthew Perry on three episodes of the TV series The West Wing (on which he played Joe Quincy) in 2003, writer/producer Aaron Sorkin had him in mind when he created his next series. Perry playes Matt Albie, head writer for a fictional version of Saturday Night Live called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which is suffering creatively and in terms of declining ratings.
He and producer Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford, also of The West Wing) have to walk a minefield of social and political issues — both on camera and off — as they attempt to restore the show to its former glory. This dramedy aired 21 episodes from September 16, 2006 until June 28, 2007.
7. Mr. Sunshine (2011)
Co-created by Matthew Perry (along with Marc Firek and Alex Barnow), this TV series portrays Ben Donovan, the operations manager for a sports arena known as the Sunshine Center. Not a very likable character in a lot of ways (partially due to his pessimistic view of the world and his own ego-centric behavior), Ben is forced to interact with people that drive him crazy in both his personal and professional life — especially his unpredictable boss at the arena, Crystal Cohen (Allison Janney, who audiences know from, among many others, The West Wing and Mom). Thirteen episodes aired between February 9 and April 6, 2011.
8. Go On (2012 to 2013)
Matthew goes for more depth with an emotionally nuanced performance in this TV series in which he plays popular sports talk radio host Ryan King, who, when we meet him, is struggling with the recent death of his wife. Most of the show takes place off-air and focuses more on the group therapy sessions he is forced to attend by work, interacting with a number of others who are going through their own trauma as they try to learn from and help each other through it all. Twenty-two episodes aired between August 8, 2012 and April 11, 2013.
9. The Odd Couple (2015 to 2017)
Created by playwright Neil Simon, and the subject of numerous stage productions, two movies and three previous television series, The Odd Couple has been a favorite for nearly 60 years, bringing two divorced men together in an apartment — one sloppy and one neat — and watching them drive each other crazy through one comedic situation after another.
In this version, Perry is “unkempt” and irresponsible sportswriter Oscar Madison, while Thomas Lennon plays the uptight and neatness fanatic Felix Unger. Together they’re comic gold. This show, which aired 38 episodes between February 19, 2015 and January 30, 2017, was Perry’s final starring role in a TV series.
We already miss Matthew Perry’s singular ability to take us on an emotional journey and help us grow to love characters like, well, friends. May he rest in peace.
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