Matthew Perry’s Greatest Role Wasn’t ‘Friends’ — It Was This TV Movie
— 30 October 2023

Matthew Perry’s Greatest Role Wasn’t ‘Friends’ — It Was This TV Movie

— 30 October 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

With the untimely passing of Matthew Perry at age 54, tributes have begun pouring in for the man immortalised by Friends.

As Chandler Bing, the 21st-century sitcom archetype was set. He effectively walked so equally-beloved wisecracking characters like John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert (The Office) could run.

But to paraphrase Indiewire‘s Ben Travers, while Perry’s sarcasm slingshot him into the oft-turbulent stratosphere of superstardom, it was his sincerity that made him a giant. Which is why his greatest role wasn’t Friends. It was — to my sincere belief — the lesser-known biopic Triumph: The Ron Clark Story.

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Now I won’t lie. This made-for-television flick based on the deeds of real-life educator Ron Clark is as cookie-cutter as it comes (and tropes galore): a maverick teacher challenges himself by accepting a post at an inner-city high school where he overcomes the emotional barriers of underprivileged youth and inspires them to pursue a brighter future.

But this was also where Matthew Perry’s “superpower” was most evident — you empathised with the other on-screen players; you saw yourself in whoever he brought to life and genuinely rooted for him. In a world filled with unapproachable leading men who resemble ideals to eternally strive towards rather than actual human beings, Perry brought things down to Earth.

The merits of his performance as Ron Clark transformed what was originally a schlocky and overly sentimental release destined for the bargain bin into something far more. Something with emotional dimensions. Something that I believe deserves to be in the same conversation as bigger-budget hits like The Pursuit of Happyness, Remember The Titans, and especially The Blind Side.

Triumph: The Ron Clark Story would be followed up by another criminally underrated (and shortlived) televised effort, this one from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, dubbed Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. It’s a must-watch for all the fans of Perry, Sorkin, and dare I say it, quality television in general.

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This precursor to the future Social Network scribe’s widely-acclaimed HBO series The Newsroom — right down to the recycled story beats; Quixotic diatribes about social decency and the political landscape of America — cast Matthew Perry as the head writer of a fictional Saturday Night Live equivalent.

Similar to Friends and Triumph, Perry’s Matt Albie served as the crucial grounding element. No matter how fanciful the storyline, how ridiculous the dialogue, or how broad his co-star’s acting choices were, the man was something you could tether yourself to for the journey ahead.

That’s what we’ll hopefully remember him for above all else.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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