Gary Susman
October 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

THE LONG GOODBYE Newsweek joined the parade of publications bidding a tearful farewell to the not-quite-expired sitcom in this week’s cover story, ”Losing ‘Friends.”’ Not much new information here, unless you’re astonished to learn that David Schwimmer really is a nerd (”I read National Geographic. I’m genuinely excited by paleontology,” he says. ”I watch documentaries, the Discovery Channel”) or that Matt LeBlanc, like Joey, is so sweet that he even enjoyed working with Marcel the monkey, telling the magazine, ”The monkey was killer! Have you ever been around one, up close? They are so much like people, it’s kind of trippy.” (We’re guessing he changed his mind about working with primates after his ballplaying chimp movie ”Ed” fouled out.) Oh yeah, and then there were Newsweek’s plot spoilers.

WARNING: Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens in the coming weeks. First, the Rachel-Joey romance will prove a brief fling, much to Jennifer Aniston’s relief. (”I hated it,” she says. ”Joey’s like my brother. I thought it was dangerous territory.”) Second, Chandler and Monica will shop for a house, meaning that their family-planning efforts may finally come to fruition. And the Ross-Rachel saga will finally be resolved. (”We’ve got to wrap it up,” says Courteney Cox. ”They’ve gone off and on and off and on. I would probably want them to get back together.”) As for May’s series finale, creator Marta Kauffman says the writers have been too sad to figure out how it will all end. ”We know we want all of them to be happy and okay,” she says of the sextet.

TOP ‘BANANA’ After his theatrical debut this summer in a London production of ”Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” Matthew Perry is returning to the stage on Thursday, this time as a producer. And he’s brought along his dad, actor John Bennett Perry. Father and son, who are supposed to shoot a movie drama called ”The Beginning of Wisdom” later this fall, are coproducing playwright Deb Norton’s comedy ”The Whole Banana.” Alas, there’s no role in the show for either Perry; it’s about a young woman, a New York artist who’s trying to quit smoking and end a bad relationship. The show runs from Oct. 2 through Nov. 9 at the Court Theater in West Hollywood.

Not long after the play closes, the younger Perry will appear on another court, one with a net. Chris Evert has announced that Perry is playing in her annual pro-am tennis tournament on Dec. 6 and 7 at Florida’s Delray Beach Tennis Center. Proceeds go to benefit drug treatment programs for women.

HOW YOU CHEWIN’ Our favorite tabloid rumor of the week says that NBC wants to see a lot less of Joey. According to The Globe, network execs want Matt LeBlanc to lose 25 pounds by the time his ”Joey” spinoff launches next fall. The paper quotes an insider as saying that Melissa McKnight is helping her husband slim down. Says the source, ”Instead of Matt’s favorite pasta meals, she’s substituting chicken and fish, and they’re eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads.” Note to NBC: Isn’t Joey the guy who ate a whole Thanksgiving turkey in one sitting?

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