The Friends spinoff we’d all rather forget

Yes, I get it. You’re going through Friends withdrawal. The popular ’90s sitcom is gone from Netflix and it will still be several months before it comes to HBO Max, which will be its “forever home. Netflix had the show for five years. That’s enough time for Ross and Rachel to get married about 17 times and take about 200 breaks. But it left Netflix recently and I know, that’s hard for you.

Don’t worry, I’ll be there for you.

While I probably don’t have the clout to score an interview with one of the show’s leads, at least I can keep you thinking about the show in ways you probably didn’t before. This week, for Fun Friday, we’re talking about Joey, the Friends spinoff you’d rather forget. I was inspired by this video:

…which gives a bit of video history of the show. I agree with most of the facts, but there’s a little more color that I think needs to be added.

Joey came about because NBC didn’t quite want to get go of the most successful show it had. The network had been through this before. When Cheers ended, they found a way to turn a minor character into comedy gold by moving Dr. Frasier Crane to another city. The character of Frasier was given a family you’d never heard of and he left his old friends behind. Frasier, the show, was actually more popular than Cheers over its run and is often better regarded.

Empowered by its success, the network tried the exact same formula with Friends. Joey Tribbiani was moved to a new city, left all his friends behind, and lived near a sister who had never appeared on Friends. He was given a new job, a new outlook on life, and the network hoped for the best.

Except it didn’t work.

When Frasier moved to his new show, he kept his irascible attitude and the characters around him just added color to who he was. Joey Tribbiani was the lovable lout who brainlessly made his way through life. Joey had no problem with the ladies and simply enjoyed the successes he got so easily.

Then, when the character moved to Los Angeles, he suddenly became deeper, more complex, and struck out with the only lady he cared about. This was a very different Joey, and that’s one of the reasons viewers left in droves.

The Anders effect

There was a meme in the early 21st century that some actors were “showkillers.” You may remember Paula Marshall from one of many shows at that time.  She had the bad fortune of being on many shows that didn’t work out, and coming into other shows late in their runs when they couldn’t be saved. She was cited, at the time, as being the “number one showkiller.” It was a title she didn’t deserve; the early 2000s were a tough time for sitcoms and Ms. Marshall is a great sitcom actor.

I bring this up because the love interest in Joey was Andrea Anders.  Sadly Ms. Anders had the same “showkiller” reputation brewing, and I think it hurt Joey more than anyone realized.

You see, when you saw a “showkiller,” if you believed in that sort of thing, it was a sign that the show in question wasn’t long for this world, and it became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think people tuned out because of this and like Ms. Marshall, Ms. Anders didn’t deserve that rep.

A merciful demise

After Joey lost a lot of its original staff and tried to retool, it was cut short in its second season. It was pulled from the fall lineup and the remaining shows were burned off during the summer. And then, the show was promptly forgotten about, one of many failed spinoffs that shouldn’t have been attempted. Matt Leblanc went on to lampoon his role on the show. He played “Matt Leblanc,” a fictionalized version of himself, on the Showtime comedy Episodes, and showing that he could laugh at his own success helped people remember what they liked about him in the first place. As for Andrea Anders, she has had some guest spots but it looks like she hasn’t been a featured player in about ten years.

And it makes me wonder, what happened to the rest of the Friends cast? It does seem like that Jennifer Aniston especially had some promise…

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.