Obviously we all adored Matthew Perry on Friends. Chandler Bing was a showcase for some of his best qualities — he was quick-witted and sarcastic but also generous and thoughtful. But there was another role predating that one where he first popped up on a lot of fans’ (and casting directors’) radars.
In 1989, five years before our jobs were a joke, we were broke, and our love lives were D.O.A., a fresh-faced Matthew Perry appeared on another hit sitcom called Growing Pains. The family show was a HUGE primetime hit, and in those days there weren’t a gazillion cable channels or streaming yet — so a guest role was seen by TENS OF MILLIONS, not even including endless reruns. (For those who know their ratings, the episode got a 24.4 — meaning nearly a fourth of all TV-owning households watched it!) So it’s no wonder a lot of fans heard about the star’s untimely death over the weekend and, even after numerous hit movies, several series, and TEN YEARS of Friends, their first thought was of this episode… We saw quite a few ’80s and ’90s kids bringing it up the past couple days. And here’s why…
In a very special episode called Second Chance, Matthew was introduced as teen daughter Carol’s (Tracey Gold) new college boyfriend Sandy. He quickly won over the Seaver family with his charm and that Matthew Perry smile. Carol was falling HARD, and so were the audience. He was just so funny and winning, right from the start.
Related: Mystery Woman Comes Forward With NEW Details Of Matthew’s Final Hours
The only problem? Sandy was a college guy and liked to drink with his buds. It’s no big deal, just a few drinks. But then Sandy stands up Carol for their date the next day. It turns out, he’s been in a car accident!
Carol goes to visit him in the hospital and even though it appears he hasn’t endured severe injury, she has to ask — was he driving drunk?? He says he only had a little to drink, and had driven buzzed plenty of times. But Carol draws the line, telling him how lucky he was that the accident wasn’t worse. He could have killed someone instead of driving into a tree! He understands, and — cracking jokes the whole time — agrees to rein in the drinking. The Seavers then have a huge heart-to-heart about it, and Carol really learns a valuable lesson.
It’s only at this point that the episode title’s cruel irony is revealed.
When Carol and her parents get home, Mike tells them Sandy’s friend called from the hospital. Right after they left, he worsened. Though he appeared fine during Carol’s visit, there were internal injuries that hadn’t been caught. And there was nothing they could do. Sandy died. He didn’t get a second chance.
It’s one of the most brutal rug-pulls in sitcom history and Tracey Gold’s performance can still make us cry to this day.
Matthew Perry came into our lives and made us all fall in love with him, and even when we found out about his substance abuse problem, all we wanted was for him to be OK, and it looked like he was going to be. Then, cruelly, he was taken away from us. He died far too young. Heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. And also, it turned out, kind of the story of his life.
Like we said, it’s no wonder this one 24-minute sitcom episode from 34 years ago was the first thing in so many fans’ minds.
[Image via Warner Bros/YouTube.]