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Matthew Perry established his Hollywood status by playing the role of "Chandler Bing" on the extremely successful comedy hit series "Friends". Perry has managed to translate the fame and popularity he garnered from playing "Chandler Bing" into an increasingly successful film career as a romantic comedy lead. Born in Massachusetts, the son of actor John Bennett Perry, his parents divorced when he was still a baby. His mother got full custody and moved Perry to Ottawa, Canada, where she worked as a political assistant (years later, Perry's mother would work as a press secretary for prime minister Pierre Trudeau). As a youth, Perry was an extremely talented tennis player and was once ranked third in Canada's doubles competition. At the same time, the teenaged Perry was interested in acting and had been appearing in school productions since he was 13. At age 15, he relocated to L.A. to join his father, in hopes of becoming both a tennis pro and a working actor. However, in 1984, Perry suffered a devastating loss during a major tennis event and decided that he would have more success as an actor. Shortly after the fateful sporting match, he debuted on an episode of the sitcom Charles in Charge. Though Perry was still in high school, it rapidly became apparent that his education would take a backseat to acting. While in a restaurant, he was spotted by director William Richert, who offered the 16-year-old a small role opposite River Phoenix in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988). Though Perry wanted to become a successful professional actor, his father was pressuring him to attend U.C.L.A. As a compromise, Perry agreed that if he could not find an acting job in the first year after high school graduation, he would attend college. Not long after that, he was hired by Fox television to star in the series Boys Will Be Boys. The series bombed, but Perry was then starred opposite Valerie Bertinelli in a new series, Sydney. While this show too was short-lived, it started Perry on a professional guest-star career that would land him roles on such series as Beverly Hills 90210, Growing Pains, and his father's show 240 Roberts. He made his sophomore film appearance in She's Out of Control (1989) opposite Ami Dolenz and Tony Danza. In the early '90s, Perry and his colleague, Andrew Hill, penned the pilot to a situation comedy about a bunch of friends in their twenties who like hanging out. They called their show Maxwell House and sold it to Universal. They pitched the idea to NBC, but the network had a similar vehicle in the works. Instead of taking Perry and Hill's show, they offered to co-star Perry in their program, Friends. The first episode aired in 1994 and became a Top Ten hit. In features, Perry had his first major success with the romantic comedy Fools Rush In (1997). Matthew Perry was born on August 19, 1969.
Actor Matthew Perry Recovering After Hospital Stay
Actor and former Friends star Matthew Perry spent 24 hours at a Los Angeles hospital on doctor's orders earlier this week after a bad reaction to prescription medication, People magazine reported on its Web site on Saturday.
Perry, 35, was released and is recovering, according to the magazine, which confirmed the actor's hospitalization with his representative. No other details of the hospital stay and release were provided.
The actor sought treatment for prescription drug and alcohol abuse in 1997 and 2001, according to People.
Matthew Perry's "The Whole Ten Yards"
There was a time when you couldn't stop Matthew Perry talking about the series that changed his life. That was then, this is now. Promoting his new movie, The Whole Ten Yards, the sequel to his one major film success 2000's The Whole Nine Yards, again with Bruce Willis and Amanda Peet, Perry's agenda is focused on spreading the word that his post-Friends career is up-and-running with a new movie. Sporting a colourful, purple, shiny shirt, jeans and sunglasses propped on his head, Perry, who completed filming the series finale of the ten-year old sitcom earlier this year, says he didn't feel the need to cry the day it was all over. "I kind of had that feeling of you're just about to cry for five hours, but Jennifer Aniston's over there sobbing so you have to go take care of her," Perry concedes, smilingly.
Ten years on, returning to broad screen comedy in Whole Ten Yards, Perry says that he learned a fundamental lesson from Friends, which "was this idea of best joke wins, no matter who thinks of it. If there's a tyrannical presence, it's wrong in a comedy world." Relating that back to his movie, "This movie is kind of a nice and funny place to be, while everybody's shooting at each other, which is kind of fun. So, it does scare you and you find yourself laughing at the most crazy, weird things."
In The Whole Ten Yards, Perry reprises his role of the perennially paranoid dentist who forces himself to realign himself with a supposedly kinder, gentler and domesticated ex-contract killer [Willis] when the former's wife [Natasha Henstridge] is kidnapped. Perry may not be enamoured with the press, but rumour has it that was while participating in the press junket for the first film, that he and Willis hit upon the idea to do the sequel. "I don't know that if it was the press junket or the fact that the day after the movie came out, it did really well," he says, laughingly. "But the reason we are here doing it again is we all like the ensemble cast and had such a blast doing the first movie. Then everybody watched it and it had this great shelf life on DVD and all that stuff."
Originally, Perry hit upon the idea of having his and Willis' characters undergo a certain role reversal for the sequel, with Willis all soft and gentle, and Perry macho and tough. But somehow that didn't seem to work, Perry concedes. "It just wasn't that funny. One of the great things about the first movie was that I was scared of everything, so in the opening table read, we had the idea of making me kind of this Clint Eastwood guy in the beginning and him being this Martha Stewart kind of person, but we had to drop half of that out."
While Perry is trying to hide from his Chandler alter-ego, he admits that there are similarities between his television character and his Nicholas 'Oz' Oseransky in Whole Ten Yards, except it's "Chandler times a thousand", he insists. Yet Perry admits that it's a challenge not to repeat himself and keep everything fresh. "As an actor, being on autopilot is the worst thing possible, so you just make sure the script was written by the right person, you make sure you're surrounded by funny people and then you just literally try to beat the joke. The goal is to have to do the shot again because the camera guy shook a little bit as he was laughing. Without that happening, I'm not happy because there's nothing better for me than a world that everybody's just trying to make each other laugh and that everybody's trying to analyse the funny and trying to make it as good as possible."
After a reflective pause, Perry adds that "I think Chandler grew up through the 10 years. What I love about a character like Oz is there are no rules. He's a scared guy who's in a set of very scary circumstances and can do all these really physical over the top kind of things." Getting back to Chandler, Perry finally admits that it was not difficult finally putting him to rest. "I loved doing the show but I love the opportunity to go and now do different things".
Meet Matthew Perry
"I desperately – desperately – needed the money," said Matthew Perry in 1997. He was talking about the reason he had taken the $10,000-an-episode role of neurotic Manhattanite Chandler Bing three years previously in the sitcom Friends. You can bet he isn't short on cash now. Each castmember earned a cool million bucks every time another episode of the hit TV show was shot.
Born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on August 19, 1969, Matthew L Perry moved to the Canadian city of Ottawa with his mother before his first birthday and shortly after his parents divorced. Unlike many who go on to be famous actors, Matthew had no dream of treading the boards, but set his sights instead at the tennis court. Dedicating himself to the game, by the time he was a teenager, he had become the city's Number Two junior player.
Aged 15, Matthew moved to LA to be with his father John Bennett Perry, a successful actor who played the rugged sailor in Old Spice commercials. Tennis fell by the wayside after he realised he'd never be the next Jimmy Connors, and the youngster refocused his aspirations on his father's profession. "I thought, 'We've got a problem here. He's good. There's another generation shot to hell!'," Perry senior later told a reporter, remembering his son's first performance at school.
Graduating from high school with mediocre grades, Matthew was determined to become an actor, although he reassured his father that should he still be out of work in a year's time, he would go to college. But the future Chandler Bing lucked out, getting cast in several TV sitcoms. The luck, however, didn't last long enough for Matthew to become a household name, as three of the sitcoms were cancelled after 13 weeks.
Then came Friends. While helping a couple of friends prepare their auditions for the series, Matthew spotted an opportunity. "The part of Chandler leapt off the page, shook my hand, and said: 'This is you, man!'," he later told a journalist. His final audition took place on a Friday afternoon, and the following Monday he started work on the set.
Overnight, Matthew's life changed. The hottest TV show in the US, Friends enabled the actor to buy a house in the chic Hollywood Hills, play tennis with John McEnroe at celebrity charity events, and make the often tricky leap from small to big screen. As with some of his co-stars, the transition was not as smooth as the actor would have liked, however.
His first big screen lead was opposite Salma Hayek in the 1997 romantic comedy Fools Rush In, which also starred his father. It failed to set the box office on fire, however. Almost Heroes also bombed, but he later scored with The Whole Nine Yards. Matthew also worked on Servicing Sara opposite Liz Hurley, but filming was suspended when he checked into rehab in the first half of 2001 for treatment of an unspecified addiction. The film was eventually released to mixed reviews.
It was not the first time Matthew had run into trouble. In the mid-Nineties, the actor became addicted to the popular painkiller Vicodin, although he later successfully kicked the habit. Then last year, after rumours circulated that Matthew had an eating disorder after his weight yo-yoed, he admitted to suffering from pancreatitis, a painful illness that can be triggered by either alcohol abuse or prescription drugs. "In my case, it was hard living and drinking hard and eating poorly," he admitted to an American magazine.
Although his Friends character Chandler married Monica, Matthew Perry is still single. High-profile relationships with Julia Roberts and Yasmine Bleeth fizzled out and he is currently dating fashion student Rachel Dunn.
Booze nearly killed me, says Friends' star Matthew Perry
Friends star Matthew Perry has told how years of drinking binges nearly killed him.
Perry admits on Saturday's Parkinson programme that seeking help for his addiction was a question of life or death.
He said: "It wasn't a question of strength. It was a question of whether I wanted to live or die - that was the real decision. I'm happy to say that I chose life.
"There was a certain point in my life when I'd have tried to drink you, Michael," he joked.
Perry has been clean since last year when he beat his addiction to alcohol and the painkiller Vicodin.
His problems were well-documented in the press and viewers saw his weight fluctuate wildly over the last four years as he alternated booze and drugs binges with spells in rehab clinics.
But Perry said he was glad his problems had been made public: "I got to help more people than I would have done had it remained private."
The American actor became one of the world's best known TV stars after landing the role of Chandler, but Perry said fame had contributed to his problems.
"It's very odd to have all your dreams come true at the age of 25 and find that this new life isn't quite what you thought it would be," he said.
Perry is soon to make his West End debut alongside Minnie Driver in the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity In Chicago.
He is being paid just a few hundred pounds a week for his performance - in contrast to the million dollars (£660,000) he and the rest of the cast get for each episode of Friends.
Matthew Perry's 'Gay Tango'
So, any chance ol' Chandler is not just Friends but family? Matthew Perry talks about the sitcom's gay sensibility and the love dance in Three to Tango, his new romantic comedy about mistaken sexual identity
Talk about gay-friendly! If gaydar actually existed, Matthew Perry would have to be considered the equivalent of a B-2 stealth bomber, flying in under the radar, scrambling the signals, unapologetically heterosexual and yet eagerly accepting roles in which the joke is that he's a straight guy who comes across as gay. A mere eight episodes into the first season of his hit series, Friends, Perry's Chandler was at first taken aback to learn that one of his coworkers assumed he was gay--not, as that other sitcom paragon of hetero fastidiousness, Jerry Seinfeld, would say, that there's anything wrong with that. "I just have to know, OK. Is it my hair?" Chandler grilled his fellow friends.
"Yes, Chandler," deadpanned Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). "That's exactly what it is. It's your hair."
"Yeah," chimed in Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), "you have homosexual hair."
But by episode's end Chandler was less concerned that his coworker thought he was gay than that she and another coworker didn't think he was enough of a stud to score with the office's hot gay hunk.
Not that there's anything remotely androgynous about Perry, 30, who has quipped his way through six seasons of Friends now. Neat, neurotic, hapless in love--don't count on his current romance with Courteney Cox Arquette's Monica to run smoothly--his TV alter ego, for all his ironic detachment, wears his unequivocally straight heart on his sleeve.
"Originally Chandler was just supposed to be the wise guy who delivered one-liners," says David Crane, the show's openly gay cocreator, "but as time has gone on, we've realized Matthew's got enormous emotional range, so we've given Chandler this incredible romantic arc, where you care for him and root for him."
Before Chandler bedded Monica, though, many of the show's gay fans were convinced that Chandler's true soul mate just might be his roomie, Joey (Matt LeBlanc)--the ever-squabbling Chandler and Joey seemed to be just about as close as two straight guys could be.
"But we never considered going that way," Crane insists. "The stuff he plays with Joey, where they are like a couple--it's much more fun if they're two straight guys behaving like a couple than if it's about a man who could be in a romantic relationship with another man."
The comic possibilities of straight-gay confusion seem to have made an impact on Perry the actor. In his just-released romantic comedy, Three to Tango, he dives even deeper into the comedy of sexual-orientation errors. The premise: Perry plays ambitious Chicago architect Oscar Novak, whose newest client, a tycoon played by Dylan McDermott, mistakenly assumes Oscar's gay and asks him to keep tabs on his mistress, Amy, played by Party of Five's Neve Campbell. Amy, in turn, is only too happy to unburden herself to the new gay guy in her life. Naturally Oscar falls in love, but if he comes out as straight, he risks losing the biggest commission of his career--not to mention the girl. For once, heterosexual love becomes the love that dare not speak its name. In the process, explains the movie's first-time film director, Damon Santostefano, "Matthew's character learns a tiny bit about what it is to be gay, and he also learns how to be a better friend and a better lover to a woman."
The movie's pratfalls are as much physical as emotional--which is fine with Perry, who calls its mix of sex and slapstick a "a nice middle ground" between his first starring feature, 1997's Fools Rush In--a more straightforward romance costarring Salma Hayek--and the film he just completed, The Whole Nine Yards, a broad farce in which Perry, as a suburban dentist, dukes it out with mobster-next-door Bruce Willis.
"I love romantic comedy," testifies Perry in an interview with The Advocate at his gated, contemporary home in L.A.'s Hollywood hills. Though still a single guy himself, he explains, "I love the genre because you're laughing and watching people's dreams coming true." In fact, with his writing partner, Andrew Hill Newman, Perry has written a bigscreen romance of his own, Imagining Emily, about a guy who falls in love with the adult version of his make-believe childhood friend. And, while that project awaits a green light at Warner Bros., he's also developing a sitcom that he would cowrite and produce--though not star in--about a psychiatrist who is turning 30 and whose life is a mess. "It's kind of like the original Bob Newhart Show, but with a young single guy, who unfortunately can't be played by me."
But gay--or presumed gay--he has no problem playing. And, Perry is happy to note, he's not alone. In the past, he says, actors "would shy away from those roles because people, might perceive that they were gay. But bat's going away in droves."
Why did you take the part in Three to Tango?
I really loved it a lot. I was actually talking with Jennifer Aniston today about the fact that scripts are so terrible for the most part, and [with Tango] I didn't put the script down.
You probably grew up watching Three's Company, where Jack sometimes pretended to be gay by mincing around and flapping his wrists. Oscar, in Three to Tango, doesn't resort to any stereotypically "gay" mannerisms. Did you make a conscious decision to avoid them?
Oscar is the nicest character I've ever played, and we wanted to get away from all those stupid stereotypes. We didn't want him dancing around and doing all that goofy stuff. Basically, this is a guy who, through a series of misunderstandings, is perceived to be gay by an entire city and by the girl he loves. We wanted it to be as real as it could be.
Did that mean you all had to sit down and figure out how broadly to play specific scenes?
There really weren't scenes like that in the movie where I had to "act gay." Everyone in the movie just assumes Oscar's gay. There was no Mr. Roper kind of character I had to pretend to be gay in front of.
The movie's end credits include a thank-you to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. What was GLAAD's contribution?
Chastity Bono [GLAAD's former entertainment media director] was there quite a lot, especially when I was doing the coming-out [as straight] speech at the end of the movie. Our goal was to keep it entertaining and funny and make sure we didn't offend anybody.
Did Chastity make specific suggestions?
Well, we hired a group of Canadian extras, who kind of looked like derelicts, for the awards ceremony [where the speech takes place]. And she made sure that at least the people in the first ten rows looked like upstanding gay businessmen and women. So there was that kind of stuff. And there were lifts from the scripts--things that could have been perceived as being offensive or could have been taken in the wrong way--and those were all carefully taken out.
The irony is that there's a certain kind of gay humor that a gay person sitting around with friends can indulge in, but if you put it up there on the screen, it's going to offend someone.
That's right. That's why Oliver [Platt, who plays Perry's openly gay business partner] was able to make fun of himself and other gay people. His character isn't only gay but is also the smartest guy in the whole movie. It's much like any other kind of sensitive issue --Eddie Murphy can make jokes about black people, but Steve Martin can't.
Just beneath the jokes about mistaken sexual identities, the movie really deals with the whole idea of the close relationship between gay men and straight women. Is that something you see a lot in real life?
It's one of the things that drew me to the script. That whole guy-girl "He wants to sleep with me, should I sleep with him?" "I don't want to open up because I might get hurt"--all that stuff is thrown out the window when the guy is perceived as being safe and gay. If straight guys could just calm down and really listen and get to know somebody, then they'd get what they wanted instead of having to go through the whole tumultuous relationship stuff.
When you encounter a relationship between a gay man and a straight woman like that, do you find yourself envious of it?
I suppose so. Not at the end of the day, but, yeah, I suppose. Women are much more apt to be honest and understanding if they're not thinking they're going to be taken advantage of.
So even though there may be an evolution in the behavior of younger straight men, you still find women keeping their guard up?
It depends on the woman. Men are learning they should listen and be more attentive. It's the best way to get to know a person and decide if you want to spend time with that person. Maybe that's just me--or maybe it's a problem I've had when I'm dancing around a person, trying to impress them and never taking the time to find out who they really are.
Matthew Perry stars in the new comedy ''Serving Sara''
Matthew Perry had hundreds of friends last night at a Los Angeles radio promotion for his new movie, "Serving Sara." The slapstick comedy opens this weekend and Perry hopes it's the beginning of a big screen comedy streak when "Friends" ends.
Perry says, "What I love is just a world where you make people laugh and have a good time and try to be funny, and I got to do that."
Only hours earlier, the famous funnyman got serious on "Larry King Live," opening up about his battle with alcohol and prescription drugs. He said on the show, "It got to the point where I was wondering if I was going to survive."
Perry admits he actually started popping pills to cut down on booze. At the height of his addiction, he was taking 20 to 30 Vicodin a day. Perry says his work on "Friends" was affected, although he insists he never drank on the set. He told King, "Eventally, I did show up to work in states of just insane hangover."
After two stints in rehab, Perry says he's finally in control and hopes to fall in love and have a family. He says, "I think in the last six or seven months of my life, I’ve become a person that deserves somebody wonderful and isn't scared of that."
Friends' Star Matthew Perry Enters Rehab
Matthew Perry, a star of the television series Friends, has entered a rehabilitation clinic for treatment of an undisclosed condition, the actor's spokeswoman said.
"Following the advice of his doctors, Matthew Perry has entered an undisclosed rehabilitation hospital," publicist Lisa Kasteler said Monday. "Matthew has every intention of completing his treatment so that he can continue his dream of entertaining people and making them laugh."
The statement offered no clues to why the 32-year-old actor needed rehabilitation or where he was hospitalized. Kasteler's office refused to disclose further details.
Perry is one of six co-stars of the wildly popular Friends, a staple of NBC's Thursday night lineup.
In 1997, he entered a rehabilitation hospital for the "early stages of chemical dependency," Kasteler said at the time. People magazine reported that he became addicted to the painkiller Vicodin after suffering wisdom-tooth problems and injuries from an accident on a watercraft.
Last June, Perry wrecked his Porsche on the narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills. No one was injured, and investigators said Perry was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The crash occurred the day Perry ended a two-week stay at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for what he said was a stomach illness. He later joked about rumors that he was suffering from pancreatitis, liver failure or a high-protein diet gone bad.
"At one point there was this story in a London tabloid that all the Friends had gathered around me, and I enjoyed the image of that," Perry said.
More "Yard" Work for Willis and Perry
The Whole Nine Yards...With a Vengeance?
Okay, so the title hasn't been determined yet, but Bruce Willis is set to return for more hijinx as the gangster next door, and Matthew Perry is in negotiations to reprise the role of his hapless neighbor in a sequel to their 2000 comedy The Whole Nine Yards, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Original cast members Natasha Henstridge and Amanda Peet are also reportedly in talks to join the project, which would likely hit theaters in 2003. Yards, which grossed about $57.3 million domestically, followed the comic adventures of a surburbanite dentist (Perry) stuck in a loveless marriage and living next door to notorious hit man Jimmy "The Tulip" Teduski (Willis) in hiding. Perry's character gets in too deep when his wife forces him to squeal to the Mob in exchange for collecting the bounty placed on Jimmy's head.
Peet played a wannabe assassin who idolizes Jimmy. Henstridge was Jimmy's foxy wife. Rosanna Arquette and Michael Clarke Duncan also costarred in the original, but neither's character survived for the sequel.
No word yet on the new movie's plot, but Franchise Pictures, which produced the original, will catch up with the friendly neighborhood hit man and his tooth doctor buddy by recruiting The Replacements helmer Howard Deutch to take over from original director Jonathan Lynn. Yards scribe Mitchell Kapner will come on board to write the script, according to the Reporter.
Willis is no stranger to sequels, having single-handedly launched franchises from films like Die Hard and Look Who's Talking. He's looking to rebound after Hart's War tanked. Willis is currently finishing up shooting on another military thriller, Hostile Rescue, which is due out next January.
As for Perry, the chances of an Almost Heroes 2 script landing at his door step were about as slim as a follow-up to Fools Rush In. Whole Nine Yards 2 offers a cinematic franchise first for the actor, who will be back as a different kind of wise guy, snarky Chandler Bing, for the final season of NBC's Friends beginning in September. (Coincidentally, Perry and Willis got along so well during the shooting of Yards that Willis agreed to guest star on Friends--a role that earned him an Emmy Award last year.)
Perry will next be seen on the big screen opposite Elizabeth Hurley in Serving Sara, which opens August 23. Filming on the Whole Nine Yards sequel begins October 4 in Los Angeles.
"Friends" Stars Go for Emmy Lead
As the saying goes: A friend in need is a friend that needs to change his strategy.
Just ask the stars of Friends, who, despite nabbing $1 million per episode and scoring the top-rated show on television, haven't gotten much love in the Emmy department.
Now, for the first time ever, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer have decided to submit their names for lead-acting nominations at this year's Emmy Awards, Variety reports. The tight-knit sextet previously only submitted their names for consideration in the best supporting actor and actress categories.
"Up until this point, they've submitted themselves in the supporting roles; the reason being they're all equal," Friends executive producer Kevin Bright explained to Variety. "There's no real star of the show."
The lone exception came in 2000, when Perry's publicist accidentally submitted his name for the Emmys' lead acting category. The goof led him to withdraw from Emmy consideration altogether that year.
But considering the Friends stars' luck with scoring trophies, the odds weren't in his favor anyway. Over its eight-season run, Emmy voters have been notoriously stingy in giving kudos to the NBC sitcom. Kudrow remains the only one to pick up a trophy, scoring the Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy in 1998. Kudrow and Aniston scored nominations last year, but came away empty-handed, as the honor went to Everybody Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts.
Perhaps their luck will now change. After all, Friends has just come off its highest-rated and most critically hailed season in years. And with the show making its exit next year, the stars may be betting that Emmy voters will finally want to give at least one of them their due.
Meantime, nominations for the 54th Emmy Awards will be announced July 18, with the big show airing on NBC September 22 from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The Television Academy also announced this week that last year's producer, Gary Smith, will be back for this year's show.
"Friends" Matthew Perry Moonlighting on ABC
It may pay to have friends in high places, especially if you're Matthew Perry.
The funniest of NBC's Friends, once romantically linked to ABC programming boss Jamie Tarses, has just inked a deal to create his own sitcom for Tarses' network.
That makes Perry the first actor to star in a show on one network while helming another on a rival net, according to Daily Variety.
Perry will write and executive produce his show, called The Shrink, about a neurotic psychiatrist who might be loonier than his patients.
"I love the medium of half-hour television," Perry tells Variety. "I've become more interested in being in the writer's room, coming up with jokes and facing the page."
There's no indication that Chandler Bing will be popping up on The Shrink's couch anytime soon, however. "This deal is strictly for me to write and produce half-hour TV for other people, to work with other writers," Perry says. (His partner Andrew Hill Newman is coscripting the project.)
Besides, Perry has no intention of giving up his Friends gig. He and his sitcom pals are due back at the bargaining table for what will likely be huge pay hikes and a contract that will carry the top-rated NBC sitcom well into the millennium.
Beginning of the "Friends"
An internal NBC research report created before the 1994 debut of Friends gave the sitcom a failing grade, describing the pilot as "not very entertaining, clever, or original."
Of course the Peacock show went on to become a Thursday night mainstay over the next decade, consistently ranking among Nielsen's top 10 and pulling in over 52 million viewers for its two-hour finale last week.
But test audiences in May 1994 found the program and its then unknown stars "not very favorable," according to the document published online at The Smoking Gun. The show got a "weak" review and was graded a measly 41 out of 100. By comparison, ER earned a 91, though it's only fair to point out that Seinfeld also scored a "weak" rating.
Most critical of the laffer was the over-35 set who described the characters as smug, superficial and self-absorbed. "They were not really like people they would want to know." The show did best among 18-34-year-olds (no big surprise) and men showed more interest than women in both the story and premise of the show (how things change).
Courteney Cox, best known as Alex Keaton's girlfriend on Family Ties at the time, was the test-audience fave, though her appeal was "well below desirable levels for a lead." Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry had "marginal appeal" while "Rachel, Ross and Joey scored even lower."
To be more specific: Men thought Monica was sexy, women enjoyed her sense of humor, and both found her the most stable and together of the group. Big bro Ross received a lukewarm response, slightly more favorable among women. But the "slacker" came across as "weak and insecure." Ouch.
Phoebe was kooky from the get-go, described by the test audience as an "airhead" and "'60s personality" who contributed a left-field perspective. "Snappy and funny" was Chandler's review, appealing to adult viewers as "more intelligent and more professional looking than the rest of the group."
As for Rachel, the 'do had yet to catch on. She was described as a "spoiled brat" and the "most sheltered" who had "the most growing up to do." Joey scored best with teens as a wise-cracking, macho character with a big ego (ah, but will they tune in to his spinoff?).
The report even provided some recommendations for improving the Friends format, which execs luckily ignored, including the addition of older characters, fewer sexual situations and using Chandler's dreams as a running bit on the show. Smarter suggestions included a larger role for Phoebe, more humor and a deeper emotional involvement among the characters.
And a potential test-audience victim saved from the screening scrap heap? The Central Perk, which confused viewers who found it too funky and too similar to the apartment setting.
Imagine, a world without Gunther...