Did two secular Hollywood actors in two morally challenged sitcoms teach viewers something that parents and pastors have been championing forever, only with decidedly mixed results?

Collectively, the late Matthew Perry and Boston native John Krasinski captured the affection of countless television viewers across several decades. Perry, as Chander Bing on Friends, and Krasinski as Jim Halpert on The Office, played hip, good-humored albeit cynically minded professional men on their respective series.

Tragically, Matthew Perry drowned and died in October. He was just 54 years old.

John Krasinski, 44, remains active in Hollywood and is engaged with a variety of acting projects.

But it was recently revealed that both Perry and Krasinski, years apart, rejected storylines in their sitcoms that involved them cheating on their fictional wives.

Actress Lisa Cash, who was originally cast as a flight attendant with whom the Chandler Bing character was to have an affair, said, “Matthew Perry went to the writers and said the audience would never forgive him [Chandler], which made a lot of sense.” Perry reportedly rejected a similar storyline a season or so later. On that episode, Perry was supposed to visit a strip club. “Let’s not do this,” he told the producer.

Decades later, The Offices John Krasinski encountered a similar situation. The script had Jim Halpert’s wife out on maternity leave at the paper company where they both worked. Krasinski was to have an affair with the new assistant hired to fill in for her.

Krasinski told authors Brian Baumgartner and Ben Silverman, “That’s the only time I remember putting my foot down. I remember saying things that I never thought I’d say before, like, ‘I’m not going to shoot it.’”

He continued:

“My feeling is there is a threshold with which you can push our audience,” he told them. “They are so dedicated. We have shown such great respect to them. But there’s a moment where if you push them too far, they’ll never come back. And I think that if you show Jim cheating, they’ll never come back.”

Perry and Krasinski’s instincts were right. Infidelity is a loathsome and heartbreaking sin that repels and destroys. Both men had devoted years to cultivating their respective characters’ reputations – and they refused to throw it all away to satisfy a writer who didn’t have nearly as much to lose.

And we’re talking fictional characters and storylines. Pure make believe.

In real life, infidelity tears the fabric of families apart. It devastates. “Flee from sexual immorality,” warned the apostle Paul. “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). The writer of Hebrews was equally blunt, urging, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

That viewers are drawn to loyalty and fidelity speaks to the hunger God has placed in people for those very honorable things. The fact that people are charmed by them or root for them – and yet often live the other way – speaks to fallen humanity and sin. It’s estimated that 25% of men (and 10-15% of women) have been unfaithful to a spouse at some point, avoidable but detestable behavior that often sets in motion a spiraling collapse of the family unit.

Sitcoms like Friends and The Office rarely teach and never preach, at least the good things. But in this instance, what they left out was far better than what they usually put in. Going forward, everyone would benefit from creators taking note and featuring and highlighting the countless benefits of faithful marital monogamy.


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