Is the 'Friends' Curse Finally Broken?

After Seinfeld ended its nine-season run in 1998, stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards all failed headlining their own sitcoms. Jerry Seinfeld did even worse: He wrote and voiced the lead in Bee Movie, managing to top a major animated release that completely failed at the box office. Their career misfortunes were dubbed the "Seinfeld curse," something that only Louis-Dreyfus has been really able to break in the time since (judging by her Emmy for The New Adventures of Old Christine and recent casting in a Sarah Palin-inspired HBO comedy).

When Friends had its finale in 2004, critics predicted similar misfortune for that show's leads, and they were right—at first. Matt LeBlanc took his character straight to a spinoff called Joey—a move that was decidedly more Joanie Loves Chachi than Frasier. Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, and Matthew Perry all returned to TV in the short-lived ratings disasters The Comeback, Dirt, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Jennifer Aniston's first two films after FriendsDerailed and Rumor Has It—were box office flops, while David Schwimmer's first post-Ross film effort, Duane Hopwood, grossed a pitiful $13,500.

While the early noughts were admittedly rough for the former Central Perk regulars, the new decade has been marked by a resurgence in popularity—and success—for the cast that was once deemed "cursed." With Matthew Perry, returning to TV tonight in ABC's new comedy Mr. Sunshine—and Jennifer Aniston opening Just Go With It opposite box office behemoth Adam Sandler on Friday—here's a look at why, right now, it's good to be a Friend.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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