Blessed with a built-in audience but cursed with high expectations, Joey had an awful lot to live up to when it first hit TV screens. Though it was spun-off from one of the most successful sitcoms of all-time, expecting Joey to be a Friends level ratings bonanza would have been unreasonable of anyone. Still, there is no doubt that virtually everyone was disappointed with how things ultimately played out, considering the series was canceled before airing two entire seasons.
Despite Joey’s lack of true staying power, the spinoff can still boast about its connection the hugely popular show Friends, which still keeps people laughing in reruns all of these years later. Given that connection, it is surprising how few Friends fans know about the spin-off that was meant to follow in that show’s footsteps. With that in mind, it is time to look at everything that went into the short-lived sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc.
In order for a piece of information to be considered for possible inclusion in this list, it must, first and foremost, relate to the making of the TV show Joey in one way or another. On top of that, something about it needs to be astonishing enough to hold the interest of the series' fans. Of course, it should be noted that every person’s knowledge base is different, so huge fans may be aware of some things to come, but every Joey fan should find something they hadn't known on this list.
Here are 20 Wild Details Behind The Making Of The Friends Spinoff, Joey.
Most longtime fans of the Friends franchise may take it for granted that everyone agrees that the character Joey was an unintelligent man. However, it turns out that Matt LeBlanc has a very different opinion of the character that he brought to life while starring in that show and its spin-off Joey.
In fact, during an appearance on a Hollywood Reporter podcast LeBlanc said “for me, he was never 'dumb.' For me, he was always just incorrect. He had his own sort of parallel-universe stream of logic.” This is certainly an interesting take on Joey Tribbiani that may surprise a lot of fans of the character. Knowing LeBlanc's perspective casts the way he played the role in a new light.
Letting people watch a show’s pilot online before its premiere could help an upcoming series succeed-- if the episode great. However, when the first episode of Joey leaked online prior to the show’s premiere in 2004, people viewed the internet very differently than they do today. Fortunately for everyone involved in the production of the series, when Joey’s pilot aired it was still a monster hit, since nearly 19 million people tuned in to watch live.
Still, we can easily imagine Joey’s producers feeling overcome with stress upon learning that the first episode of their show was available for illegal download prior to its debut airing.
Spinoff shows have one major advantage over their competition: the ability to play off the success of the series they were spawned from. On the other side of things, fans oftentimes have unreasonable expectations that a spinoff will instantly be of the same caliber as the show that came before it.
Additionally, in theory, a spinoff shouldn’t be able to feature actors that appeared on the series that inspired it-- unless they are playing the same character. Despite that, Adam Goldberg appeared in several episodes of Joey as the father to the titular character’s nephew, even though he briefly played Chandler’s unhinged roommate Eddie on Friends.
Watching LeBlanc play the same character with whom Schwimmer shared so many scenes with as an actor, but being behind the camera must have felt surreal for Schwimmer.
Spun-off from a show that lasted an incredible 10 seasons and remained a ratings behemoth throughout its entire run, Joey’s relatively short run disappointed a lot of people. Longtime fans of the show’s main character hoped Joey would give them the chance to watch his antics for several more seasons.
According to one of the show’s producers NBC and the studio that made Joey were at fault for its short lifespan. Speaking about the series’ failure, one of its producers Kevin Bright said “Joey was deconstructed to be a guy who couldn't get a job, couldn't ask a girl out. He became a pathetic, mopey character. I felt he was moving in the wrong direction, but I was not heard.”
From one entry about the reasons for Joey’s cancellation to another, we are now going to look at how well the show had actually been performing prior to its early demise. Joey was nven given the opportunity to finish airing its second season. NBC opted to not air 8 episodes of Joey, which could be seen as a slap to the face of everyone involved in bringing the show to life.
With that in mind, you’d probably think that the series had been a ratings disaster, but that really wasn’t the case. Clearly, it wasn’t a huge hit but Joey’s second season averaged 7 million viewers per episode, which is a solid number, especially in comparison to the kinds of ratings shows get today.
Many people dream of being working actors, so it's a really big deal when performers land a high profile role. For that reason alone, an actor like Andrea Anders must have been overjoyed to land the role of Alex, one of Joey’s main characters. Unfortunately, as we all already know, Joey failed to live up to the lofty expectations of many people and it likely wasn’t the boon to her career that Anders hoped it would be.
In fact, she even took a starring role in another show named The Class prior to Joey’s official cancellation. She was probably given a strong indication that Joey was unlikely to continue before she switched jobs.
When Matt LeBlanc's time starring in Friends came to an end, he needed to prove that he was not meant to be a one-hit wonder. Opting to continue playing the same character that brought him international fame may have seemed like a shortcut to continued acclaim but, of course, things did not work out that way.
However, if you think that LeBlanc regrets signing on to portray the lead character in Joey, you're sorely mistaken. In fact, the opposite is true, since he has said, “I made 30 million dollars, I’d like another one of those failures” when asked about Joey’s short existence.
We've discussed Andrea Anders leaving her starring role in Joey, but we never touched on how close she came to missing out on that job. In fact, Joey’s pilot was originally filmed with another actor playing the character Anders eventually received but during a test screening viewers did not like her performance. As a result of that feedback, Ashley Scott was shown the door by Joey’s producers and Anders was hired in her place.
Though this moment in her career which must have felt awful, luckily Ashley Scott was able to attain several other starring roles on TV shows like Dark Angel, Birds of Prey, and Jericho.
During Friends’ 10-season run, Matt LeBlanc shared the spotlight with his five famous co-stars. With that in mind, it must have felt weird for LeBlanc to stand front and center as the star of a show that focused on his character above all others.
In order to give Joey its own identity early on, it makes sense that, aside from occasionally mentioning the main character’s life in New York, the series ignored the events of Friends. However, everyone involved with Joey were very open to the idea of including cameos from the other 5 Friends stars had the show lasted beyond two seasons.
Already on the rise long before she landed her role as one of Joey’s lead characters, Drea de Matteo had received a great deal of attention and respect for her performance as The Sopranos’ Adriana. Of course, going from The Sopranos, which is one of the best crime dramas in television history, to a lightweight sitcom like Joey must have felt like a massive change for her.
When asked about how drastically different the two roles were, de Matteo claimed to be relieved to be a part of a much lighter series. Speaking about starring in The Sopranos in 2004, de Matteo said: “I was sick and tired of crying every single week.” On the other hand, when asked about starring in Joey, Drea claimed to be “excited just to have some fun.”
As anybody that has had a full-time job should realize, you end up spending more time with your co-workers than almost everyone else in your life. This is even truer when you take on a high stakes job like creating and running a major network sitcom. Some people in that role practically eat, sleep, and dream their work.
With that in mind, it can make things a lot easier for everyone involved if a show like Joey is created by people that genuinely liked spending a lot of time together. That is why it is so wonderful that the show’s co-creators weren't just friendly-- Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan got married in 2006 and they have been together ever since.
Considered by most people to be the crown jewel of network sitcoms for a long time, Friends ending after 10 seasons was a giant loss for the network. An obvious attempt to retain the audience that show had built over the years, creating a spin-off like Joey may have seemed like a genius stroke at the time. Of course, just because Joey had an obvious connection to Friends does not mean it was reasonable in the least to expect it to live up to the ratings levels of the show it was spun-off from.
Despite that, one of Joey’s executive producers Kevin Bright has said that the show was under “a tremendous amount of pressure for the show to succeed on a Friends level.”
A pair of powerhouses in the entertainment world, David Crane and Marta Kauffman had their first major success together in 1990 when their show, Dream On, hit the airwaves. After working together on that series for three years, Kauffman and Crane went on to create Friends and Veronica’s Closet together.
Working closely together from 1990 until Friends’ 2004 finale, it seems like they wanted to branch out from there since they have not created a series together since. Still, you may have expected them to wield some authority over Joey since it was centered on a character they created. However, aside from being credited for character development on Joey, neither had anything to do with the show.
A lot of show creators end up leaving their series in order to bring another one to life to new projects before too long. However, when it happens after the very first season, it tends to raise some eyebrows.
Additionally, we know that Joey’s creators were a real-life couple at the time and have gone on to get married. On top of that, they had previously worked together as writers and executive producers on the show Friends for years before that. With all of that in mind, Shana Goldberg-Meehan’s departure from Joey after the first season is very noteworthy, even among early showrunner exits.
While Marta Kauffman and David Crane were the creators of Friends, Veronica’s Closet, and Dream On, Kevin Bright also was very important to all of those series as he executive produced them. After working as a trio for nearly 15 years, unlike Kauffman and Crane, Bright signed on to work on Joey as executive producer.
Considering he was in a highly influential position behind the scenes of Joey, it seems like he should have been upset to see it meet a relatively early demise. Despite that, when speaking of Joey’s end, Bright said: “I needed the rest. I worked 60 to 80 hours a week and my life kind of crept by me.”
It seems love really was in the air during Joey's production. As we touched previously in this list, the show’s creators were a couple and they have gone on to pass the test of time since they remain together today. On top of that, two of the show’s stars, Matt LeBlanc and Andrea Anders, met for the first time while working on the sitcom and stayed together for many years.
Seen on the red carpet together several times in the past, LeBlanc and Anders were a couple for more than eight years and even broke up as recently as 2015.
While working on Joey, Drea De Mateo claimed to be “excited just to have some fun." However, she later said something in 2014 that makes it seem like she probably wasn’t being honest with the press at that time.
Revealing that she “had such animosity towards that whole experience at the time,” thankfully she also said, “in retrospect, I would go back and do Joey again.” As an explanation, she also said, “I didn’t want to do it, and I kinda got pushed into it. But looking back on it, me and Matt [LeBlanc] had so much fun. And I had a blast with the crew.”
Ultimately an ill-fated series, when Joey came to an end it may have seemed like its early demise was the worst fate it could suffer. However, the show’s greatest humiliation is that it is all but forgotten. Even some of Friends’ biggest fans never think about it unless an article like this one reminds them Joey aired.
While that fate surprised many people who had high hopes for the show, in 2017 one of Joey’s creators said he always knew that it was based on a bad idea. Speaking about spinoff shows in general, Joey co-creator Scott Silvestri said: “the story has to dictate, not the market.” He went on to say “my initial reaction when approached to do it was, 'Oh God, no'.”
Aside from Phoebe Buffay, it seemed like Joey Tribbiani was the least likely of the group to have a spin-off based around him. After all, throughout Friends' successful run, a lot of the character’s best moments were his reactions to his pal’s antics and it would be very hard to argue that he was that show’s biggest star.
For that reason, it makes a lot of sense that, according to Kevin Bright, Joey was not the first character choice to base a spin-off around. The original plan was to have Rachel star in the show but Jennifer Aniston turned down the opportunity. From there, the next idea was to base the follow-up show around Monica and Chandler but Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry “didn’t want to play those parts anymore.”
Are you a fan of Joey? Let us know your thoughts on the show in the comments!