Shows That Should Be Forgotten: Joey
Friends was a sitcom on NBC that began in 1994 and lasted 10 seasons. It is currently in syndication on multiple channels and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Friends might have been a success, but its short-lived spin-off, Joey was a failure from the start. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) moved from has native New York City to Hollywood in the spin-off. Joey was meant to be a big hit after it was announced as part of NBC’s fall schedule for the 2004 season. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Joey had low ratings from the beginning and never succeeded with critics. It was cancelled in the middle of the second season. Even so, it lasted too long.
In the pilot, Joey goes to Hollywood after hiring a new agent and is offered the lead in two television series. He accepts the one of the offers and assumes that the other one will be a huge flop. The series Joey chose is cancelled almost immediately. At this point, he is right back where he started. He is a struggling actor, who is untalented and is failing to realize his dreams because he is unable to make decent career decisions. Conversely, the show he rejected becomes a huge hit. Joey is close-minded right from the start and it is extremely hard to root for him.
The characters around him aren’t very likable either. Just getting off the plane in Hollywood, he gets reacquainted with his headstrong sister Gina, played by Drea Mateo. Gina’s character always seemed very bitter and cynical throughout the series. She was never very supportive of Joey. Then again, who could be supportive of him? In the original series, Joey was a charming man with good intentions and the ability to lift the spirits of everyone around him. He might have been a little ignorant, but that comes from his unrelenting optimism. In the pilot, Joey was “giving change a shot” and Gina tore him down. Gina has a 20-year old named Michael, who Joey wants to connect with and be known as the “cool uncle.”
Drea Mateo gives a good performance as Gina in the series. However, the viewer just would never want her character to have her way. She started raising Michael (Paulo Costanzo), when she was 16 years old and is instinctively possessive of him. Michael is portrayed as a socially inept academic who kept to himself throughout his childhood and now looks to Joey as a role model. This is a very absurd notion. Joey can barely learn from anyone let alone teach them anything. One of Michael’s goals throughout the series is to be more comfortable around women. He wants to have faith in Joey’s “wisdom,” but cannot possibly follow his same approach. Michael always seemed like a character who was afraid to stand up for himself and afraid to embrace who he really was as a person. Joey showed on multiple occasions that there was something wrong with being an introverted academic. It is a baffling message and is simply not the case.
Joey has had the opposite approach to Michael. He is most definitely extroverted. Joey was much more successful with women and people in Friends. In Joey, his failures are not only as an actor, but as a human being. Part of the problem was the show’s decision for Joey to focus on a singular love interest. His crush was his married next door neighbor Alex Garret. This presents Joey with a moral dilemma, leaving him consistently uncomfortable around a woman for one of the few times in his life. It never seemed natural for Joey to be after only one woman. It certainly did not make any sense to show him being uncomfortable around any women. However, this story line had some redeeming qualities. It confirmed unequivocally that Joey has a good heart. He could be a good friend to Alex without trying to seduce her.
Even after Alex got divorced and Joey started dating her, the portrayal was very awkward. He did not know how to express himself. He could not be a casual flirt as he was accustomed. He could be monogamous, but he could never be comfortable. The relationship was never meant to last. Before Alex, Joey dated another neighbor named Sarah. This approach to his relationships with all women seemed insincere and much less charming than if his friends in New York were there to witness his conduct and chastise him.
Despite Joey having the occasional tendency to be somewhat funny, the premise was a completely unnatural fit. Joey Tribbianni was still the same funny character, but he was put in the wrong place and in the wrong situation. He could not adjust to change well. He could not identify with those around him. Overall, Joey did not work as a lead character. When he was in his comfort zone, nothing could stop him from enjoying life, despite his failure as an actor. When he moved to Hollywood and out of his comfort zone, Joey did not have same appeal. Friends will be remembered for years to come as a funny show with a solid and likable cast that included Joey. Joey will always be considered a huge mistake that should be, and mostly has been, forgotten.
Posted on August 10, 2012, in Comedy, NBC, Network Television, Primetime, Shows That Should Be Forgotten and tagged alex garrett, drea mateo, friends, gina tribbiani, hollywood, joey, joey tribbiani, matt leblanc, michael tribbiani, nbc, paulo constanzo, spin off joey, spin-off. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.