The ''Friends'' star's setback isn't expected to affect the series, though it may delay his film projects

By Lynette Rice
Updated February 28, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Matthew Perry: Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press

Matthew Perry is back in rehab. According to his publicist, the ”Friends” star — who previously admitted to struggling with an addiction to painkillers — checked himself into an undisclosed hospital on Friday at the advice of his doctors. ”Matthew has every intention of completing his treatment so that he can continue his dream of entertaining people,” his spokeswoman, Lisa Kasteler, tells ”He appreciates everyone’s concern and thanks them for respecting his privacy.”

Warner Bros. Television, which produces the NBC comedy, says ”Friends” will stay in production and original episodes will continue to air as scheduled. Sources close to the series say the writers have already begun plotting the shows for May sweeps, which revolve around the much anticipated marriage between Perry’s character, Chandler, and Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette).

In fact, the writing team was already struggling to work around the prestrike film commitments of the show’s stars. Perry himself was in the midst of filming Paramount’s ”Servicing Sarah,” and was set to begin shooting the indie film ”Beginning of Wisdom” in April. Production has been shut down on ”Sarah” due to Perry’s rehab; there is no word yet on how this will affect ”Wisdom.”

It’s unclear how long Perry, 31, will be in rehab, though one source close to the show says the studio is now well trained in weathering the absence of its stars: ”Everybody does movies and stuff. They are always working around problems. It’s a real pain.”

These are tough times for ”Friends,” which is facing its first big ratings challenge thanks to CBS’ ”Survivor: The Australian Outback.” Ever since the Eye net debuted the hugely popular reality show at 8 p.m. Thursdays, the nation’s No. 1 comedy has fallen to second place among adults 18 to 49 and total viewers in its time slot.

And its numbers aren’t expected to improve in the next two months. Save a few original episodes — one of which is set to feature Winona Ryder — ”Friends” will be running repeats in March and April, giving CBS a clear advantage. Still, the Chandler / Monica nuptials — and Perry’s continuing personal struggle — will surely turn up the heat in May.