Life After Friends: Grading the Cast Members on Their Post-Friends Careers

For ten years, millions of people tuned into NBC every Thursday night to hang out with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey.  We saw them go from single in the city to married with children and moving to the suburbs.

Television shows that last as long as Friends don’t come around very often because it is hard to keep things fresh and entertaining for viewing audiences.  It’s difficult to go out on top, but Friends managed to do so.

Once the show went off the air, the cast members faced the challenge of moving on to other roles while being typecast as their respective Friends characters.  It is the blessing and the curse that actors face when becoming a particular character in the eyes of the world.

The cast members of Friends have enjoyed varying degrees of success since taking their last sip of coffee at Central Perk.

The following is a report card of each cast member’s post-Friends career (in ascending order):

David Schwimmer

GRADE:  Incomplete

Schwimmer has not done enough in television or movies to be fairly evaluated.  His most notable role since Friends ended only features his voice (Melman the Giraffe in the Madagascar movies).  Aside from a handful of forgettable cameo roles on television, and a couple of movies that were far from blockbusters, Schwimmer has been virtually non-existent to any fan that hasn’t gone to see him acting on stage.

Matt LeBlanc

GRADE:  D+

When Friends ended, so to did the lives of most of the characters.  The only exception being Matt LeBlanc’s character, Joey Tribbiani, who moved out to Hollywood.  For 46 episodes, Friends fans were given the opportunity to see what Joey’s life was like living without his five closest friends.

The show named after his character, Joey, struggled to find its way early on, but eventually settled into becoming a decent sitcom.  However, it was far from successful.

LeBlanc recently resurfaced in a Showtime original series called Episodes. The show is about a British husband and wife comedy writing team who move to Hollywood to remake their successful British television series, with disastrous results.  The show is scripted, but it may as well be reality television because the premise of the show has actually come to fruition.

It is not necessarily LeBlanc’s fault that Episodes is unwatchable, but he doesn’t do anything to elevate the show to an even remotely entertaining level.

Lisa Kudrow

GRADE:  B-

Lisa Kudrow’s television career since Friends has been nothing to write home about.  Aside from a handful of cameo roles, Kudrow has starred in 13 episodes of a show that she created for HBO called The Comeback.  Clearly, one season does not a “comeback” make, so the show’s title is actually a bit ironic.

However, Kudrow has carved out a decent career on the big screen by starring in 10 movies since Friends went off the air, and she deserves credit for taking on roles that do not make you believe that you are watching Phoebe Buffay over and over again.  That being said, Kudrow has certainly not become a box office draw.  She is merely a good supporting actress who plays her roles well.

Matthew Perry

GRADE:  B+

Matthew Perry’s post-Friends career has been interesting, although great success in television and movies has eluded him to this point.

Perry starred in Aaron Sorkin’s uniquely clever show entitled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Unfortunately, the show only lasted for one season, as it was prematurely cancelled by NBC. As an hour-long comedy drama, Studio 60 had a hard time finding its niche and building an audience large enough to justify keeping it on NBC’s slate.

Perhaps, NBC thought that having one show that was a behind-the-scenes look at a pseudo-Saturday Night Live on their schedule was more than enough.  It was somewhat confusing to have two new shows with the same basic premise on at the same time on the same network (30 Rock being the other).

Matters were further complicated by the fact that both shows were the only ones on primetime to feature numbers in their title.  One can’t help but wonder if Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip would have had more success if Sorkin had given it a more marketable title.

Perry has appeared in a handful of movies since Friends went off the air, but his most likely path to enjoying success again appears to be with his new show, Mr. Sunshine. Perry’s character, Ben Donovan, is very Chandler-esque, but that might not be a bad thing since it gives the show an instant familiarity.

If the first episode of Mr. Sunshine is an indication of what is in store for the future, Perry may very well have found another show with staying power.

Jennifer Aniston

GRADE:  A

Did the cast members of Friends collectively decide to call it quits because they felt that the show had run its course?  Or, did they think that they would be able to use the show’s success as a springboard onto the big screen?  If the answer is the latter, then Jennifer Aniston is the only one who got it right.

Aniston has successfully transformed herself from Rachel Green into a bona fide silver screen queen, starring in 14 movies since Friends went off the air.  Unlike Kudrow, who fills complementary roles, Aniston is the box office draw.  And though Aniston has made a handful of cameo appearances on television, she is no longer thought of as a TV actress.

For better or worse, Aniston’s romantic comedy roles always seem to remind movie-goers of Rachel.  And though she has played other roles that show her acting range, Aniston never really seems to make you forget that Rachel is always lurking somewhere in the background.

Courtney Cox

GRADE: A+

Courtney Cox played the role of Monica Geller to a tee.  She embodied the role so much that the thought of her playing any other television character seemed difficult to fathom.

Cox was basically off the map for the first few years after Friends. Like the other cast members (aside from Aniston), she didn’t achieve much success on the big screen.  But it didn’t matter.  Cox is made for television.

A few years after Friends went off the air, Cox brilliantly filled the role of Lucy Spiller in the FX original series, Dirt. Cox played the tough but sexy editor-in-chief of a magazine called “DirtNow,” which was created by combining “Dirt” (a typical tabloid magazine) and “Now” (a more respectable glossy magazine)

By the time that the first episode of Dirt was over, you forgot that Monica Geller ever existed.  Although both characters were controlling, Monica did it in a quirky, lighthearted way, whereas Lucy Spiller did it in a manipulative, cut-throat kind of way.

Unfortunately, FX pre-maturely cancelled the show after 20 episodes, leaving fans wanting more.  This dramatic show had more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments, but the drama was what made it compelling.

Like many hour-long dramas, Dirt was about character development and a continuing storyline.  FX never really gave it much of a chance to develop a bigger audience, which is a shame since the quality of the writing was outstanding.

If there is a silver lining to the cancellation of Dirt, it is the launching of Cougar Town (Cox’s latest series).

Cox’s character on Cougar Town, Jules Cobb, is a recently-divorced real estate broker living on a cul-de-sac with the rest of the ensemble cast.  Because Jules is a quirky, somewhat obsessive control-freak, it would be natural for shades of Monica to shine through. However, Cox is so good as Jules that Monica never enters your mind while watching the show.

The writing on Cougar Town is as good as any sitcom on the air today.  The ensemble cast, with Cox leading the way, plays off of each other brilliantly.  Like Friends, the half hour seems to go by so quickly that you are left wanting more.

Very few actors and actresses have been able to recreate themselves on television when they have achieved tremendous success as a particular character.  Some have done it in two roles (Jack Klugman, Caroll O’ Connor, Andy Griffith, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), but it’s hard to recall anyone else doing it in three roles.

Jennifer Aniston may have achieved the most Hollywood success out of all of the Friends, but Courtney Cox is the one who grades out the highest for her ability to embody multiple television characters in such a short amount of time.

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Posted on February 13, 2011, in Actors and Actresses, Sitcoms and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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