‘Growing Pains’: Matthew Perry’s Character’s Death Has a Tragic Backstory

Matthew Perry quickly rose to stardom in the 90s, when he became a part of one of the most popular TV shows ever to air on television.

Although we’ll always think of Perry as Monica and Rachel’s witty next-door neighbor, he had plenty of roles before he became Chandler Bing

He was also a part of a very popular 80s sitcom. His character in that show was very different from Chandler Bing, though, and he helped highlight a serious problem that affects many people. 

Matthew Perry — more than just Chandler Bing

Matthew Perry
Matthew Perry | Mike Pont/WireImage

Matthew Perry was born in Massachusetts but spent most of his childhood living in Canada with his mother. He developed a passion for acting as a teenager, and moved to Los Angeles to live with his father. 

Perry began acting right away, and appeared in his first film while he was in high school. He starred with River Phoenix in the 1988 comedy, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon

He also began working in television. His first sitcom, Second Chances, was about a man who returned from the dead to mentor a younger version of himself. The show was later renamed Boys Will Be Boys when the writers changed it to focus solely on the younger man (played by Perry). Despite the name change and plot updates, the show was canceled. 

Perry went on to guest star in several sitcoms, and got his big break in 1994 when Friends hit the air. He played the incredibly funny Chandler Bing, one of six friends living in New York City. The sitcom went on to become one of the most popular television shows of all time. 

Who did he play in ‘Growing Pains’?

Before Matthew Perry rose to stardom as the devilishly sarcastic Chandler Bing, he had a recurring role in another popular sitcom. Growing Pains, the family-friendly show about the Seaver family, ran from 1985-1992. 

Perry appeared in the series during season four, playing Carol Seaver’s boyfriend, Sandy. Carol met Sandy while she was in the NYU library doing research for her high school project. Sandy was a sophomore at NYU, so Carol lied about her age, claiming that she, too, was a college student. 

Sandy asked Carol to the bar on campus, and the two hit it off. They began dating, with Sandy stopping by to see Carol at home, and Carol inviting him to her parents’ anniversary party. 

What happened to his character?

RELATED: ‘Friends’: Matthew Perry Once Revealed He Was ‘Painfully Hungover’ While Working

In the season four episode titled “Second Chance”, Perry’s character meets a troubling fate. The episode begins with Carol and Sandy’s night out. Despite her parents’ objections, Carol goes with Sandy to a bar and a college party. 

The night is filled with drunk college kids, and Sandy drinks quite a bit himself. Eventually, Carol returns home, and Sandy promises to pick her up the next day for a special luncheon on campus. 

Carol gets increasingly nervous the following day, because Sandy doesn’t show up. Her brothers tease her about him standing her up, until she receives a phone call from Sandy’s friend. He explains that Sandy was in a car accident the night before, and he is now in the hospital. 

When Carol visits Sandy in the hospital, he tells her that he is being charged with drunk driving. He seems to be in good spirits, and he has a new outlook and is thankful for a second chance. Carol leaves feeling hopeful that he will recover. Unfortunately, he later passes away due to internal bleeding.  

Although Growing Pains was a sitcom, it sometimes touched on serious issues that affected many families. Sandy’s death focused on the dangers of drunk driving, and reinforced the importance of drinking responsibly.