If I were a Friend, I would have been Chandler. This is something I believe in and in many ways my burden to bear. I know it makes me insufferable a certain amount of the time. I know it means that some people are just not going to get along with me, and I’m sure Matthew Perry was a lot like that in person. Even his most recent drama is caused by, I suspect, trying to hard to be funny. He picked the wrong target, and it’s heartbreaking to realize that he’s never going to be able to overcome that.
It’s not exactly a hot take that a lot of Friends has aged like milk. It’s a network sitcom of the ‘90s that’s trying to be cool and funny, and sometimes, that means jokes that . . . are not good. Some of the jokes weren’t great even at the time. It’s an incredibly white show, and its LGBT politics are some of its worst bits, and I don’t dispute any of that. I haven’t sat down to watch any of it in a long time, and when they were trying to maybe hook up Rachel and Joey I couldn’t possibly and stopped watching it. But I don’t care. Sometimes, when it’s really working, it’s one of the funniest shows ever.
Behind the scenes, Perry was fighting quite the demons. His weight was a constant battle, it seems; Jennifer Anniston—who remained his friend—offered to serve as his personal trainer. And, of course, there’s the addiction. He was on and off chemical substances, by his own estimate having been in detox some 65 times and survived surgeries and medical dramas; of the five people put onto a certain machine the night he was, he was the only one to have survived this long. It’s been reported at this time that there were no drugs found in his home, but the question will always be there.
I am on record as the only person who liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, though I’ll freely admit that it’s got all the highs and lows of Friends, quality-wise, packed into a considerably shorter stretch. But perhaps the best scene in it is when Sting is playing “Fields of Gold,” one of my favourite songs as well, during his “I guess I play the lute now” phase. The quiet love of the song he’s showing in that moment is in my opinion the highest high the show ever reached; if it had lasted longer, I don’t think it could have gotten higher than that.
It’s unfortunate that one of Matthew Perry’s last acts was to pick a fight with Keanu Reeves. That’s a fight he could not have won, any more than his character could’ve won actually arguing with Sting had he attempted him to order him to do something. Even I who like Matthew Perry a lot more than most sided with Keanu Reeves. More people should remember him playing poker while moderately terrified of Dennis Rodman, where he was actually funny as hell. He was too young. Not as young as River Phoenix, who was good friends with Keanu Reeves, but too young.