Of all the annoying characters on Friends, Joey Tribbiani was the worst. That's an achievement of sorts. For really irritating characters, Friends was a crowded field.
Thus it was eerily inevitable that Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) was the one who got the spinoff show. Being incredibly irritating, he is, naturally, the one who just won't go away.
Joey (NBC, Global 8 p.m.) is not the worst new show of the season. Far from it -- wait until you see Listen Up. The major American networks are unstinting in their devotion to unleashing some drivel every year. As sure as there will be some interesting and compelling shows, there will be a plethora of pathetically inept productions.
It's just that Joey Tribbiani is, incredibly, even more irritating when he's freed from his friends in New York and moves to L.A. He's still dumb, you see, but he's no longer the dumb guy in the bunch of smart-alecky nitwits. He's the star. He's all over the place, all the time.
Joey is a lame, hollow and utterly unoriginal show, and it shouldn't be. NBC has done a successful spinoff before. Years ago, when Cheers ended after a long and successful run, NBC took one character, Frasier Crane, and launched a show about him. The first episode of Frasier was beautifully done. It is rightly considered a masterpiece of TV storytelling and is widely studied today.
The relevant difference is that Frasier Crane character was obviously a grownup. Nobody on Friends actually grew up. Oh, they got married and had kids but they were all adolescents, really. Joey continues the theme. He's an idiot, an infantile, insufferable twerp. As you'll have gathered, I don't like Joey.
Things begin with Joey's arrival in Los Angeles. To greet him, there's his sister Gina (Drea de Matteo, best known as Adriana, the twitchy nails-and-hair girlfriend of Christopher on The Sopranos) and the opening conversational gambit is a reference to her new ta-tas. She's had 'em done, you see. She went up three sizes, she says. As sisters will do in L.A., apparently, she invites Joey to give them a squeeze. "I gotta get my bag. I'll feel you up in the car," is his nervous comeback.
If that was it for the ta-ta humour, the show might be forgiven. But the boob jokes are endless. By the end of the comedy, such as it is, what you remember are two things: 1) Joey Tribbiani is a bit dumb and, 2) his sister has big boobs. This show could have been called "Three Boobs."
Before it actually ends, the action and humour are non-stop. Joey finds a new apartment. There's a cute girl next door. Gina has a 20-year-old son, Michael (Paulo Costanzo), and he's living with mom but wants to move out. Specifically, he wants to move in with Joey. This causes a few squabbles. Joey's acting career doesn't go as planned. His agent (Jennifer Coolidge) is a bit batty.
Now, in that last instance, there's actually a bit of genuinely wicked humour. Coolidge's agent character is insane and obviously created with some relish by the L.A.-based geniuses who dreamed up Joey. It's a real pity they didn't put the same effort into the other characters, especially the star.
The Apprentice (NBC, Global, 8:30 p.m.) is the other big debut tonight. If you haven't heard about the second season of the Donald Trump-worship show, you've been in a cave somewhere. It's been hyped to death.
Magazines and radio have been particularly enthusiastic about telling you that the second outing for The Apprentice is juicy and brimming with truly obnoxious applicants for that job with Trump.
In truth, that may be a small problem. The hype and hollering from Trump has gotten out of hand. The first season of The Apprentice came out of the blue and was a big hit because it was so novel. Now, Trump has sold a piece of the show to anybody willing to pay. You'll find such corporations as Mattel and Pepsi being part of the rigmarole as the applicants seek to complete business tasks and please the guy. A little Trump goes a long way and his knack for overkill may have overhyped the show.
Tonight's 90-minute opener will introduce the 18 candidates. As happened in the first season, Trump will split the candidates into two teams of nine. Then, each week, they will be asked to perform tasks and try to get along while living in a Manhattan suite. It's a really easy show to follow.
Considerable attention has already been paid to the women contestants, with particular emphasis on the number of barracudas in the bunch. I'm sure all will become clear tonight, along with many reminders that you can buy the first season on DVD. That is, just in case you're anxious for Donald Trump to have your money as well as your undivided attention.
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