Monday, September 14, 2009


by Amy K. Bredemeyer

From the ten-year classic that drew millions each week to a two-season flop that continually strove to find its audience. Friends without Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, and Ross. Just Joey. And not in New York, but Los Angeles. And not with the charm of the original gang.

I watched all of the 46 Joey episodes in just about a week, and my husband and I spent a good deal of time analyzing why the show just didn't make it. It's actually quite amusing, as you can tell what elements were added and removed throughout the series' run in an attempt to draw in more viewers.

Yes, it is a little out-of-character/place for me to cover a show that wasn't very good in my "canceled too soon" series, but I think it will add an additional dimension to the understanding of what makes a show good enough to continue.

Let's start with the characters. The four characters appearing in every episode are Joey, his sister Gina, Gina's son/Joey's roommate Michael, and neighbor/super Alex. It was a good combination... sexual tension between Alex & Joey, familial issues with the triad, and a catty relationship with Gina & Alex.

Joey's agent Bobbie was in 32 episodes... 14 in the first season and 18 in the second, so that was fairly steady. Neighbor Howard was in 7 the first season and 10 the second... not bad. Zach, an acting friend of Joey's, showed up in the first episode of the second season, and stayed until the final 5 episodes of the series... here's where it gets interesting. Zach brought diversity to the show (black and seemingly homeless), while instituting a new friendship/work dynamic for Joey. I'm really lost as to how he became a major character (he participates in the "secret santa" with the regular characters) and how he just disappeared from the show. Next up: Jimmy, Gina's longtime lover, Joey's friend, and Michael's father (which Jimmy doesn't know for quite a while into his appearances). He shows up in Episode 11 of Season 2, and stays until the end, where he marries Gina. Jimmy is clearly added for the humor that he doesn't know he's Michael's father, and so Gina has a more steady person to interact with on the show. Then there are several people with whom Joey has a couple episodes with, including a rival actor at ausitions, a producer, and coworkers on his drama TV show (Deep Powder). They brought in Carmen Electra and Lucy Liu for crying out loud!

Now, a little more on the regular characters... Michael was a much more central character in the first season than in the second... I guess a 20-year-old sheltered child prodigy with issues talking to girls has been overdone, LoL. Gina's job as hairdresser disappeared and she worked for Bobbie in the second season (despite the fact that Joey gave her the money to open her own studio... that was never talked about again...), allowing her to be around Joey without Michael since they had the workplace and the apartment to interact. Lastly, Alex's divorce to an always-absent husband really seemed to rush the romance between Joey and Alex in a way that took Friends several seasons to flesh out.

Plots. What was the point in having Joey look at houses, pick one out, buy it, redecorate it, move his stuff, have a party, and have the place burn down? Well, it brought in a pretty girl as the interior designer, but otherwise it didn't really serve much of a purpose (with the exception of possibly giving Michael more of his own storylines, but after we see him with his friends, that's useless). Having Joey nearly get fired was good, and having him buy a Mack truck was very in-character. Food and women playing a big role in the show was also good, and a second sister and his father coming in at different times worked well. BUT, why no reference to the grandmother that loved everything Joey was in? Why were the sisters played by different people than the original sisters in Friends? Why was there no mention of the Friends gang except for a vague sexual reference to Rachel?? Could they not get Matthew Perry to at least do a "phone" appearance for the show? And since David Schwimmer did direct several episodes, I find it hard to believe that there were no other crossover events or mentions whatsoever. There are a few other strange things that took place that I could go into, but I think you get the point. Absurd things happening, striving to shine the spotlight on "interesting characters," all in vain.

Now, the show ultimately fell because it was moved from Thursdays to Tuesdays, putting it up against American Idol. But it does seem that hope was lost before that, since it was put on hiatus at one point, and they never did air the final eight episodes in the US. I'm actually kinda surprised that it hasn't been bundled with Friends for syndication. It wouldn't be the first time that two spin-off series taking place in different states were bundled together (think The Torkelsons and Almost Home or Good Morning, Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell!)...
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