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TV Series Review

As the only anticipated Friends spin-off, Joey (NBC) tracks the relocation of Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) from New York to Los Angeles, where he hopes to make it big as an actor. There he’s reunited with his sister, Gina (Drea de Matteo of The Sopranos), and her son, Michael (Paulo Costanzo). Taking his college-age nephew in as a roommate, the street-smart but astoundingly air-headed Joey proceeds to show Michael the ropes of independence. Meanwhile, single mom Gina, who’s still quite protective of Michael, worries about letting go of her highly intelligent but naive son.

Joey sports a few innocently funny moments. Upon arriving at the airport, Joey chats with a cabbie about finally reaching the actor’s mecca—Hollywood—prompting the driver to ask why he’s in Dallas. Joey’s trademark dim-wittedness shines again when he auditions as a news anchor for a TV entertainment program. “Welcome to ‘Hollywood Minute,’ I’m NAME,” he reads straight from the teleprompter. He spends the rest of his hilarious tryout lagging behind camera changes.

Soon, however, guilt-free laughs give way to self-conscious snickers. Joey’s writers and producers—three of whom oversaw Friends—pick things up where they left off at Central Perk, treating sex as casually as a handshake. Jokes about anatomy, orientation, frequency and deviance occur at an astounding rate. One-night stands are encouraged. Fodder for low-brow banter includes homosexual attraction, incestuous relationships, pedophilia, threesomes and pornography—all accompanied by a standard laugh track.

Loose morals aren’t just heard in dialogue, they’re also on display. Neighbors get a peek at Joey’s privates when he splashes down in a hot tub wearing only underwear. Gina’s introduction centers on her recent breast enhancement surgery (which she asks her brother to inspect), while revealing tops give viewers an eyeful. Even secular critics have noted the chesty obsession, with TV Guide stating that the series “relies too heavily on jokes about the big fake breasts of [Joey’s] sister.”

Add frequent alcohol consumption, bathroom humor and harsh language, and it’s Friends all over again. That troubling sitcom about six modish New Yorkers excelled at dressing moral messes in Armani. Likewise, Joey wraps a hip, good-looking cast around a saucy, sex-obsessed script. And everyone’s supposed to laugh and applaud because, after all, what faithful Must-See TV watcher would turn his back on an old Friend?

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 9, 16, 23, Oct. 7, 2004


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