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How the cast fared when they became former ‘Friends’

The cast of "Friends" (clockwise from left): Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt Le Blanc, and Lisa Kudrow.Jon Ragel/NBC

Q. You aren’t a fan of “Friends,” I gather, but you have to admit that the cast was charming. Right?


A. You are correct, Friend, in that I’m not a big “Friends” fan. I do occasionally find myself zoning out to reruns of the show, and I cringe at how flat some of the jokes are. Also, by the time the writers put Joey and Rachel together, you could see their desperation to keep the show on the air far beyond its natural life.

But the ensemble was also sharp and, yes, sometimes charming. When I think of “Friends,” I often think of how most of the cast members have done their best work after the show wrapped in 2004. So here are my picks for their highlights.


Lisa Kudrow: In her post-Phoebe career, she has done the most inventive and original work of the whole gang. Showtime’s improvised “Web Therapy” is a lot of fun, with Kudrow as a self-absorbed therapist. The list of guest stars is long, and it includes Lily Tomlin, Molly Shannon, Meryl Streep, Victor Garber, Conan O’Brien, and Rashida Jones.

But the real peak of Kudrow’s career is “The Comeback,” the darkly brilliant two-season HBO comedy about bad sitcoms, reality TV, and sexism in the entertainment industry. Kudrow is Valerie Cherish, a self-involved actress who is trying to revive her fading career with a reality show and an awful sitcom. At every turn, she meets with humiliation, which can painful to watch but nonetheless wise and cleverly ironic. The show is willing to risk its own likability to sling ugly truths about TV, fame, and human nature.

Matt LeBlanc: I don’t have anything positive to say about his most recent show, “Man With a Plan,” a lazy CBS family sitcom that lasted for four seasons. But from 2011-17, when his “Joey” spinoff fail was far behind him, LeBlanc starred on a smart Showtime comedy called “Episodes” as a comic version of himself. The show’s Matt is the star of a network sitcom whose British writers are finding it hard to adjust to the ways of Hollywood and its studios. By the way, the series is available for streaming on Netflix, if you’re in the market for a light, farcical binge.


Matthew Perry: The former Chandler Bing has had some trouble getting a foothold in TV, even though some of his series attempts, including “Go On,” had potential. But, while Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” never quite worked, and NBC canceled it after one season, it gave us an opportunity to see Perry’s power as a dramatic lead beyond his strong dramatic guest turns on “The West Wing” and “The Good Wife.”

Jennifer Aniston: For me, Aniston’s best post-Rachel work has been on “The Morning Show,” the Apple TV+ drama on which she plays a beloved longtime morning anchor. The role has pushed Aniston as an actress, as her character deals with her own vanity, loneliness, competition, and complicity, and she seems more comfortable than ever exploring the gray areas.

Courteney Cox: In the years since she was Monica, Cox has had two good turns. FX’s “Dirt” didn’t catch on, as it chronicled the life of Cox’s ruthless tabloid editor — but the two-season drama gave her a good chance to be spiky and trashy. She was back in more familiar comic territory on (the poorly titled) “Cougar Town,” and she was perfect for the role of a divorced mother — and a wine lover — who’s back in the dating world and, later, newly married to her neighbor. It was on ABC and TBS; now you can find it on Amazon.


David Schwimmer: Alas, the two series that have been built around him — “Feed the Beast” and “Intelligence” — have not been great. But he did put in a nice turn as Robert Kardashian in FX’s excellent “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” and I thought he was one of the few highlights of season 10 of “Will & Grace,” in his seven-episode stint as “The West Side Curmudgeon.” He and Debra Messing had a surprising chemistry.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.