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Matthew Perry's First Role Was A Far Cry From Friends

Matthew Perry left behind a storied acting career when he died on October 28, 2023, at the age of 54. Aside from his iconic part on "Friends" and his work in movies like "Fools Rush In," he advocated bravely for substance abuse awareness. But all the way back at the beginning of his career, he was just another kid turning a bit part into something special. Perry got his start as a child actor in 1979, working alongside his dad John Bennett Perry in a bit role on the short-lived ABC drama series "240-Robert."

Perry the younger was only 10 when he made his debut in the medical drama, but he makes a memorable impression. While Deputy Theodore Roosevelt Applegate III (John Bennett Perry) administers first aid to his friend, Perry's character, Arthur, asks what Theodore is doing, and what a paramedic is. Applegate waxes linguistics at the unimpressed child as he does his job. 

This small part would launch Perry on the road to an acting career. He continued to pick up acting jobs in his mid-to-late teens, landing memorable guest spots on sitcoms like "Growing Pains," "Silver Spoons," and "Who's the Boss?" and dramas like "Highway to Heaven" and "Beverly Hills 90210" before hitting it big on "Friends." It also wouldn't be the only time he'd work with his dad, as John Bennett Perry would appear on "Friends" as Mr. Burgin, on "Scrubs," where they would play father and son, and in Perry's film, "Fools Rush In." And they aren't the only famous alums from "240-Robert."

240-Robert didn't last long but it had some big future stars

"240-Robert" lasted longer than you might think, running for two seasons on ABC from 1979 to 1981. Aside from Matthew Perry and John Bennett Perry, the drama also boasted a hefty cast of future stars. Working beside the elder Perry as the show's co-lead was Mark Harmon, years before "St. Elsewhere" established him as a star and "NCIS" cemented him as a Hollywood legend. 

Also in the supporting cast was Joanna Cassidy, a few years before she portrayed Zhora in "Blade Runner" and Dolores in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Making guest appearances on "240-Robert" were Jenilee Harrison — just before she began playing Cindy Snow on "Three's Company" — and Shelley Morrison after her "Flying Nun" role but before her time on "Will and Grace" as Rosario. The multitalented Dinah Shore even played herself once on the show.

Clearly, "240-Robert" was something special, no matter how long it lasted, as it helped give Matthew Perry a taste of the acting life. If his father hadn't nailed the role of Theodore Applegate, then who knows — the world might not have gotten to see Perry play Chandler Bing.