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Guest stars: The good, the bad, the twin sister

By ERIC DEGGANS
Published May 4, 2004

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Time to get off the couch
As the six Friends leave their Central Perk hangout for good, their generation is ready to move on in life, too.

Friends has gotten loads of comedy mileage from an amazing roster of guest stars, from Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn to Tonight Show host Jay Leno and rocker Chrissie Hynde (who unleashed the coolest version of Smelly Cat ever played on TV).

Some raised the cast's game, but others had trouble getting through a 30-minute episode with their pride intact. For the sake of posterity, we list our faves and forgettables.

BEST

Tom Selleck, as ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Burke.

Why he was good: Sometimes called "the seventh Friend," the Magnum P.I. alum showed surprising versatility playing Monica's older flame in many episodes. He fit in with the whippersnappers like a pair of comfortable slippers, proving that a pedigree in TV and ease with a one-liner is the best formula for Friends guest star success.

Ben Stiller, as Tommy the yeller in "The One with the Yeller."

Why he was good: A pre-There's Something About Mary Stiller was spot-on as a volatile ex-boyfriend of Rachel. He showed his anger only around Ross - with nerve-jangling bouts of shouting - until, of course, Chandler and Joey's pet chick and duck dared to cross him.

Lisa Kudrow as waiter-porn star Ursula Buffay.

Why she was good: Originally a character on sister show Mad About You, Ursula transitioned to the mothership as Phoebe's pathologically callous twin sister. From dating Joey to using Phoebe's name while starring in porn flicks (one title: Buffay the Vampire Layer), Ursula could always be counted on for a bizarre laugh or three fueled by split-screen technology and Kudrow's considerable acting chops.

Reese Witherspoon and Christina Applegate, as Rachel's sisters Jill and Amy Green.

Why they were good: As Rachel's shopping-addicted, self-centered blond sisters, these comedy vets kept the sibling rivalry flowing, even as Witherspoon's Jill took up with Ross and Applegate's Amy made a hollow case for status as parent to Rachel's daughter Emma if her actual parents died.

WORST

Jill Goodacre, as herself in "The One With the Blackout."

Why she was bad: Trapped in an ATM vestibule with Chandler during a power outage, she held a mostly stilted cell phone conversation before Heimliching a piece of old gum out of Chandler's windpipe. Besides starting a small tradition of bad model acting on Friends (see Elle MacPherson and Denise Richards), her wooden performance explained why the dialogue in most of their scenes came from thoughts inside Chandler's head.

Brad Pitt, as former fatty Will Colbert in "The One with the Rumor."

Why he was bad: Rumor has it Pitt was seriously nervous over guest starring with wife Aniston (as a slimmed-down, ex-geek pal of Ross' who hated Rachel in high school), and it showed. Stilted reactions, overly exaggerated comedy, near-palpable self-consciousness - despite his cred as a film actor, Pitt knew he was out of his depth on a sitcom stage. After five minutes' viewing, the audience did, too.

George Clooney and Noah Wyle, as Dr. Michael Mitchell and Dr. Jeffrey Rosen in "The One with Two Parts: Part 2."

Why they were bad: Already uncomfortable as the two hunks on megapopular ER, Clooney and Wyle were extra uncomfortable as two hunks who picked up Monica and Rachel during an emergency room visit. Sometimes, when it comes to mixing cast members from popular shows, it's best to keep the big dogs apart.

[Last modified May 3, 2004, 16:34:11]


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