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To all the Hollywood writers who complain about the increasing presence of reality programming on network television, I say screw you. What do you expect? It seems as though in every Variety or Entertainment Weekly article you complain that classless reality shows are taking over, and yet what do you do in retaliation? You offer up mindless dreck like Joey, the unnecessary and completely laugh-free spin-off from Friends. Is it any surprise that we opt for the natural comedy of Julie Chen on Big Brother or Mose on Amish in the City?
Yes, tonight was the much heralded premiere of Joey, a show which many critics had warmly praised all summer long. This once again proves that the television critics in this country have gone soft. I suppose it’s not their fault totally. Sitcom quality has slowly declined over the past ten years, and for every Seinfeld that shone brightly, there was a Yes, Dear, a Drew Carey Show, a Still Standing, or a George Lopez Show that quietly sat down on the toilet of pop culture and took one long poop. The critics have been worn down by the mediocrity, and now if a show is merely inoffensive or charming, it’s considered funny. That’s the only explanation I can give for why Joey received such favorable advance notices. So just because Marc Berman at Mediaweek might think highly of the show, let me tell you something, people. It sucks.Joey is just further proof that under the aegis of Jeff Zucker, NBC has completely lost its title as the home for hip, urbane, and funny comedy. This was a network that since the eighties churned out hit after hit – and not just in succession. There would be funny shows on two or three times a night, multiple nights a week. Under Brendan Tartikoff and then Warren Littlefield, NBC’s development machine linked up great ideas with smart writers, leading to classics such as The Cosby Show, Cheers, Family Ties, Alf (okay, skip that one), Seinfeld, Golden Girls, Night Court, Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life, Frasier, and Friends (although, I really don’t like Friends). In the past four years, Zucker has presented us with… Coupling?
Watching Joey is a reminder of just how far this network has fallen. Yes, even in its glory days, NBC – like any network – had its misses, but when Joey represents the best of the freshmen class, it’s just sad.
As for the show itself, the only bright spots seem to be Drea De Matteo and Jennifer Coolidge – who can make almost anything funny, or sort of funny at least. Matt Le Blanc as Joey is unable to carry the weight of this show. I’ve always felt like he overacts, and with the Joey character front and center, it’s glaringly apparent. There have been worse shows, no doubt. I used to work on a little doozy of a sitcom which shall go unnamed, but let’s just say I’ve had way more Dyan Cannon in my life than I ever wanted. Nevertheless, Joey had a decent moment with a talk show audition that went wrong, but the payoff was predictable and the comedy didn’t build to anything. As for the rest of the jokes, they were just flat.
I suppose there will be Joey defenders out there, which is fine. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions. But if you’re looking for real comedy, watch Reno 911!, Chappelle’s Show, or any single camera Fox show that looks like Middle America might scratch their head at (that disqualifies Oliver Beane).