Yo! Joey Scores “Friends” Spinoff
Joey Tribbiani is leaving his Friends behind and heading to Hollywood.
Matt LeBlanc, twice Emmy-nominated for his role as the dim-witted wannabe actor, is going solo, inking a deal with NBC and producer Warner Bros. Television to star in a Friends spinoff, the parties announced in a joint statement Thursday.
As part of the package deal, LeBlanc will also star in two upcoming Warner Bros. movies.
In Joey, set to debut in Friends’ longtime 8 p.m. Thursday slot starting in fall 2004, Joey heads out West to pursue his acting career.
“I’m pleased to say that NBC’s wonderful relationship with such a once-in-a-decade series as Friends will continue in a sense but in a new direction that will keep it fresh,” says NBC programming chief Jeff Zucker in a statement. “Matt’s lovable character of Joey Tribbiani has come into his own in recent years on the series, and Joey’s progression will continue as he emerges more on his own–we know that everyone will be rooting for him.”
The idea of a Joey-centric spinoff were first floated last fall, with plans going into overdrive once LeBlanc and his Friends pals agreed to disband in May 2004 at the end of the upcoming 10th season.
With the Ross-Rachel storyline played out and Monica and Chandler married off, Joe became the show’s most compelling character, and the perfect subject for his own series, the network says.
The network is hedging its bet for Joey by signing on Friends executive producers Kevin Bright, Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan to helm the spinoff.
For his part, LeBlanc says he can’t wait to get started (and apparently bolster his already hefty bank account in the process).
“Matt is thrilled. Over the last couple of seasons, Joey has grown into such a rich character,” said LeBlanc’s publicist and lawyer on behalf of the actor, who is out of the country and unavailable for comment. “LeBlanc’s arrangement with Warner Bros and the network is a complex deal of unprecedented proportion and includes, among other elements, a significant ownership position.”
In other words: Cha-ching!
Of course, LeBlanc is going to have to prove he can score sans his Friends. So far, his non-Friends track record is abysmal. With the exception of his cameos in the two Charlie’s Angels flicks, his film r√àsum√à includes such lowlights as Ed, the baseball comedy in which he starred opposite a chimp; the box-office black hole Lost in Space; and All the Queen’s Men, where he starred as a soldier in drag.
But NBC is banking on the Friends pedigree. As the anchor of the Peacock’s “Must-See” Thursday lineup since 1994, the show has won several Emmys and is up for 11 more this year, including Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for LeBlanc, his second straight nod. The sitcom remains TV’s top-ranked sitcom and has averaged a whopping 21.8 million viewers during its nine-year run.
With both Friends and Frasier (which is, of course, the hugely successful spinoff of Cheers and what NBC hopes is a blueprint for Joey) on their way out at the end of the season, and CBS’ CSI-Survivor Thursday roster seriously challenging in the Nielsens, NBC is desperate to come up with a new comedy franchise.
Already, the network’s gambit seems to be working. Fans are peppering Internet chat boards with pro-Joey notices, delighted that Friends will live on, at least in part.
“Howww youuu doin’?” cheered one fan on a Yahoo board. “That’s great–he’s the best character on the show.”
Yo! Joey Scores “Friends” Spinoff