Now we can imagine how it feels like to lose a friend. The death of Matthew Perry was not just the passing of a celebrity or a movie star; it felt personal. “F.r.i.e.n.d.s”, directed by Marta Kauffman, David Crane, and Kevin S. Bright, is one of the most popular TV shows of all time. It is hilarious, relatable, and definitely binge-worthy. In a time when an average young Indian’s exposure to television was through soap operas or serials, “F.r.i.e.n.d.s” introduced the genre called sit-com or situational comedy.
This 90s sitcom first aired in 1994 and continued through 2004 with a span of ten seasons, centering on the lives of six New Yorkers, who made us feel like we were a part of them. The show achieved enormous success with 62 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and a spot as the 21st greatest TV show in TV Guide’s list of all time. Its popularity continued until the end, with about 52.5 million Americans watching the final episode. This made it the 5th most-watched TV series finale ever and the most-watched episode of the 2000s. The star-studded cast of the show included Jennifer Anniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer.
Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, is undoubtedly one of the funniest and most discussed characters in the entire show. He is hilarious, awkward and “makes jokes when uncomfortable”. Chandler is a single child to divorced parents, and the humor lies in how he copes with his psychological problems. The drastic shift from the awkward, under-confident, and insecure guy to a confident, sensible, and matured man towards the season finale has made Matthew Perry a hit among the fans. His character allowed us to connect emotionally and psychologically with him.
“F.r.i.e.n.d.s” most certainly was not the only good thing that has happened in the television career of Matthew Perry. He has also acted in several movies like 17 Again, Fools Rush In, The Whole Nine Yards and many more. While his celebrity life was a hit, his personal life had its share of complications. He had a troubled life dealing with substance addiction from a very young age. In his memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing – he talks about the “big terrible thing”, which is his drug addiction, how he struggled with it, and how he recovered from it. “There are two kinds of drug addicts,” Perry writes, “…the ones who want to go up, and the ones who want to go down…I wanted to melt into my couch and feel wonderful.”
“F.r.i.e.n.d.s” has been a comfort watch to almost an entire generation of youth, helping them relax by escaping from reality into the world of six friends, and their dynamic friendship. What makes “F.r.i.e.n.d.s” a beloved show despite criticism for its homophobia, transphobia, lack of cultural diversity, and problematic themes, is perhaps the characters and the actors portraying them. It takes courage to admit one’s addiction and Matthew Perry has been brave enough to be vulnerable and real in front of the media and the whole world. He owned an addiction recovery facility and has helped several people to recover from addiction and maintain sobriety. That is how he wanted the world to remember him by: as someone who helped his friends live a better life.
Adeena Regeena is a PhD scholar at Sree Sankaracharya University, Kerala