Opinion: Matthew Perry – Best of Friends?

It was announced recently that Matthew Perry would partake in a recurring guest star role in surprise legal drama hit The Good Wife, with his character’s debut just a few short weeks away. This spot on the show is another indicator of the manner in which Perry has attempted to escape the shadow of the monolithic and unshakeable presence of juggernaut Friends which has marked his career. After failed attempts to break out from his days on the sitcom, with the decent yet commercially unspectacular Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the short-lived, maligned sitcom Mr. Sunshine both being cancelled in the wake of his post-Friends career, Perry’s efforts have clearly been met with much anticipation and regular disappointment. But why is this? Perry has the qualities in his performance and appeal to the audience to become the unexpected breakout of the sitcom bunch, his intelligent upside and versatility perhaps painting him as the underdog of the group. While the Anistons and LeBlancs have been touted more openly for success, it can be argued that Perry has the ability to garner the most success.

However, since the end of the iconic sitcom, Perry’s successes have obviously been few and far between, but this is a pattern that runs through most of the stars of Friends. Analysing the male portion of the cast, David Schwimmer was portrayed as the male lead of the show, his slow-burning relationship with Aniston’s Rachel driving most of the drama over the course of ten seasons. However, Schwimmer has appeared perhaps the least on screen since 2004, only lending his voice to the Madagascar series of films and a few non-hit movies. This has been largely due to Schwimmer’s desire to move behind the camera, and his directorial career jumpstarted on the big screen with Run Fatboy Run starring Simon Pegg. It seems clear that Schwimmer has realised his inseparable recognition with the Ross character he played for ten years and has decided to pack in his performing for directing instead.

On the other end of the scale, Matt LeBlanc’s career onscreen has seen a slight resurgence due to his self-parodying portrayal of himself in the sitcom Episodes, airing both sides of the Atlantic in 2011 and being commissioned for a second series. Earning LeBlanc a Golden Globe, the show is a dramatic removal from the ratings bomb that the much-hyped Friends spinoff Joey proved to be, and is a distinct reminder of how important it is to let even the most popular of characters go sometimes. While LeBlanc’s success last year was substantial, he is only just recovering from the sizeable crater that Joey left him in, and is indicative of the importance of finding the correct script.

It is on the female side that Perry’s main competition lies though, as Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox go from strength to strength since ending the series. Despite Lisa Kudrow only performing in small roles here and there, it is notable perhaps that the celebrity relationships that Aniston and Cox have been involved in have perpetuated their status in the pop culture ring. Aniston’s link to Brad Pitt combined with years of being the female lead as Rachel meant that the actress had a substantial fan-base built in and the result of her subsequent divorce from Pitt put her in a vulnerable and sympathetic position that would establish her character as the unlucky-in-love woman in the virtual majority of her stream of rom-coms. While as much in the public eye as ever, Aniston has successfully transitioned to the big screen, but is still playing the same Rachel character in uninspiring, risk-free script selections that fail to challenge her ability as an actress.

Similarly, Courtney Cox’s career has rebounded as of late with the inception of her hit sitcom Cougar Town. In a nod to Aniston’s subsequent career, Cox plays the same character from her Friends days in a mildly different context, and you’d be forgiven for believing that the show was purely following the Monica character ten years later. Also her on-off relationship with David Arquette has kept her in the public eye, and their reprisal of their screen relationship in the 2011 sequel to the original Scream trilogy will have done much to contribute to her success and bank account. Her crowning glory since leaving the show has been the overwhelming hit that her new television show has been, and the ability to afford guest spots to Kudrow and Aniston shows that she is perhaps the dark horse to consider for being the most successful of the six.

It is safe to say that the women of Friends have been notably more affluent since leaving the sitcom, with Aniston a steadfast Hollywood movie star despite the unchallenging prospects that new pictures such as 2012’s Wanderlust afford her and Cox reinvigorated on screen by the success of Cougar Town. In this respect, it is obvious that Perry’s failures in Studio 60 and Mr. Sunshine exclude him exponentially from the most successful list of the Friends cast, yet it is clear that his career is at a definitive crux point, wherein The Good Wife could be a launching point towards Perry rejuvenating his stalling career. In a show that has featured excellent guest spots from the likes of Michael J. Fox and Alan Cumming which for the latter earned a permanent spot on the cast, Perry’s appearance on the show may be a vital opportunity to shake off the stigma of the sitcom as well as his co-stars and become the best of Friends.

 

Matthew Perry joins the cast of The Good Wife on Sunday March 25th on CBS in America.

 

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~ by jrhett on March 15, 2012.

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