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Commentary: The one where Chandler Bing’s impenetrable job defined a generation

LONDON: The aspirations and frustrations of the white-collar worker have been depicted by great fictional characters in novels and on the screen, notably Bartleby, the Scrivener, Revolutionary Road’s Frank Wheeler and The Office’s David Brent.

To that pantheon of office drones must surely be added Friends’ sardonic Chandler Bing, played so beautifully by the actor Matthew Perry, who died at the weekend at the age of 54.

The US sitcom, which ran over 10 series between 1994 and 2004, was of course about friendship but it was acute on work too. Chandler represented the office worker whose life was impenetrable to outsiders.

Between nine and five, he spoke corporatese, complaining about “the WENUS … Weekly Estimated Net Usage Statistics.” No one knew what he did: “Something to do with numbers … a transponster!”

Compared to his friends with easy-to-understand jobs (Ross, a palaeontologist, Monica, a chef) Chandler’s profession seemed void of purpose, a word frequently evoked by today’s management commentators.

Even waitress Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston who also starred in Mike Judge’s great cinematic satire on cubicle culture, Office Space) was on the up – Central Perk was a stepping stone to her true love: Fashion.

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