TV Rewind | Joey: The cautionary tale for sequels and spin-offs

Matt LeBlanc reprised his popular role from Friends for the show, but Joey's success was nowhere close to its predecessor.

Friends, as we all know, is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. And when it ended in 2004, spin-offs of the money-minting machine were expected. Thus came Joey. But over the years, Joey has become a cautionary tale in the world where spin-offs and sequels are the order of the day.

Starring Matt LeBlanc, Drea de Matteo and Andrea Anders among others, Joey, created by Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan, ran for two seasons and ended in 2006, with the last eight episodes never making it to air because of its bad ratings.

Here’s revisiting Joey to analyse what really went wrong with one of the most-anticipated shows of the time and why spin-offs aren’t always a good idea.

What is Joey all about?

Joey begins soon after the events of Friends as the titular character moves to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Here, he meets his elder sister Gina (Drea), her son and a host of other characters who form the ensemble. The episodes follow the main characters as they navigate their way through work and love life.

What did not work for Joey?

Over the years, many have said, including the writers and creators of Friends, that the show was destined to fail. But at the time, this show was NBC’s crown jewel. So much so that the network even gave it the prized time slot of Friends.

When I first watched Joey, soon after watching Friends, it didn’t feel as bad, but as the episodes went by, it got increasingly uncomfortable. I say uncomfortable because the more you watch this, the more you have a feeling of it being wrong in some strange way. The character of Joey, who you have grown to love through the ten seasons of Friends, is treated with some weird character development that looks like it was written for someone else.

The ensemble of Friends felt perfect as all the six characters fit in like a perfect puzzle. To counter Joey’s naivety, there was Chandler’s wise remarks. But in this setting, Joey’s stupidity was left unattended. Friends was also designed adhering to popular character archetypes where Joey fell under the stereotypical ‘cool guy’. In the spin-off though, his coolness was just taken away. He wasn’t the guy hanging out with his friends who could easily spit out a “How you doin’?” and flatter the opposite sex. He was a sad impression of his old self. Joey was struggling in his love life and work-life and did not even have any friends to cheer him up.

When the show started, it focused on Joey’s relationship with his sister Gina and her son Michael. Gina, played by Drea de Matteo, felt like she belonged to Joey’s family and was quite likeable but as the show proceeded, her story with her ex became too central and after a while, it was hard to care for characters that we did not even know.

The second season of Joey had him falling in and out of love with Alex (Andrea Anders), but by that time, we had known his character for over 10 years, and this relationship just didn’t ring true for the audience. Kevin S Bright, the co-creator of Friends and the executive producer of Joey, revealed a few years ago to Digital Spy that the show forced the character to grow up which was quite uncharacteristic.

What happened to Joey?

The show was cancelled due to its poor ratings and despite changing the time slot, NBC did not air the last eight episodes of the show. After the show’s cancellation, Matt LeBlanc took a break from showbiz for four years. His comeback comedy series, Episodes, had him playing an exaggerated version of himself and it was in that show that they took some real digs at the spin-off.

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Joey is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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