Perry’s new show proves “Friends” cast still has clout

By Tom Comi

As Matthew Perry’s new comedy series Mr. Sunshine premieres tonight on ABC, it really makes you marvel at how resilient and fortunate he and his fellow castmates from the hit show Friends have been over the years to keep getting work.

Most actors from popular sitcoms are typecast and subsequently have trouble finding work. And you need to look no further than the cast of Seinfeld in which stars like Jason Alexander and Michael Richards have struggled to land steady jobs since leaving the show. But with the Friends cast, all of them have been fortunate enough to find work on TV shows, in movies and even behind the camera since the show went off the air in 2004.

Let’s peek in at our “friends” to see what they have been up to:

Matthew Perry has been able to stay busy with work on the big screen and small screen, with his most notable role being TV writer Matt Albie on the SNL-inspired NBC drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the show sadly struggled in the ratings despite critical acclaim and lasted only one season. Perry’s most heralded post-Friends role came playing the title role in the TNT original movie The Ron Clark Story, and he also starred alongside Zac Efron in the feature film 17 Again. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Sunshine fares, especially with a very generous lead-in from Modern Family.

Jennifer Aniston is by far the most successful Friends alum if we are ranking the cast by notoriety and income. And even though she has yet to produce a blockbuster, she has done fairly well at the box office with titles like Rumor Has It, Friends With Money, The Break-Up, Marley & Me, He’s Just Not That Into You, Love Happens, The Bounty Hunter and The Switch. Her latest film, Just Go With It, in which she co-stars with Adam Sandler, opens this Friday.

Matt LeBlanc is the poster child for second chances, and he is very fortunate he got another opportunity after the trainwreck that was the Friends spinoff Joey. But after serving a five-year sentence of not being on TV or in movies, along came the Showtime gem Episodes in which LeBlanc plays himself (or a parody of himself). The show is hilariously irreverent and offers an inside glimpse at the making of a TV show. And as great as LeBlanc is, it is English actors Stephen Mangan and Tamsen Greig who do all they can to steal the show.

Courteney Cox has had some luck over the years with films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and the Scream franchise (she’ll be in Scream 4 this April), but her bread and butter will always be television. After toiling around with the series Dirt and Web Therapy, Cox seems to have found a home on the ABC hit Cougar Town.

Lisa Kudrow has dabbled in both movies and TV shows, and she has carved out a nice niche over the years in both. In addition to playing supporting roles in films like PS: I love You and Hotel for Dogs, she was fantastic in the HBO show The Comeback in which she played an older actress whose attempt to get back in the business is filmed by a documentary crew. Unfortunately, the ratings were not as good as the reviews, and the 2005 show only lasted a year. Kudrow is now serving as executive producer on the NBC show Who Do You Think You Are?

David Schwimmer has been the least seen of the six “friends,” but that doesn’t equate to not being busy. In addition to lending his voice to the three Madagascar animated movies, he has been staying busy directing TV shows (Joey and Little Britain USA) and the 2010 feature film Trust (which stars Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and Viola Davis).

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Mr. Sunshine: Credit Danny Feld/ABC

Just Go With It: © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. Credit: Tracy Bennett

Episodes: Credit Colin Hutton/Showtime

Cougar Town: © 2010 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. Credit Mitch Haddad

Who Do You Think You Are?: © NBC Universal, Inc. Credit Nicole Rivelli

Madagascar: Courtesy DreamWorks Animation SKG