Culture > Television

The dumb friend

Television | This spinoff appears to have the same virtues and vices as Friends

Issue: "Iraq: Terror without end," Oct. 2, 2004

Some consider the hit sit-com Friends, which just ended its run, to have been great television, with its lively collection of attractive twenty-something characters enjoying life in the big city. Others think the show, with its casual, carefree treatment of sex, has been a bad cultural influence. Others just considered it annoying. All could agree, though, that Friends had good writing and clever lines. Now Joey, the spinoff of Friends, seems to have the same virtues and vices.

In Friends, Joey was the dim-witted roommate trying to make a living as an actor. In NBC's new show, Joey leaves New York for Hollywood, trying to make the transition from ads and soap operas to what he calls "serious acting."

His equally dim-witted sister is there, as is his over-the-top "shark" of an agent, and two characters presented as being "smart": his nephew, studying physics in grad school, and his neighbor, a female corporate lawyer (who sees her job as representing rich people and making the world a little bit worse).

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The characters so far have the Friends charm and chemistry. There are some funny moments. (Such as the opening of the pilot, when Joey is explaining to a cab driver why he came to Hollywood. Whereupon the driver asks, "So why did you come to Dallas?" Joey forgot he had a layover.)

That illustrates the best element of the series: the time-honored genre of dumb jokes. Also amusing is the ongoing satire of Hollywood, where just about everyone turns out to be an out-of-work actor. Joey goes on a succession of auditions, where he has trouble following the right camera and lapses into Juliet's part while trying to do Shakespeare. Joey gets a job on a cop show-spattering himself in fake blood-which gets canceled for being too violent, while the show Nurses that he turned down becomes a huge hit.

The show is rated TV-14 for innuendos, but it does not seem quite as raunchy as Friends eventually became. Joey does have the same worldview, though, with sexual matters being treated with utter lightness. Joey's sister Gina tries to help her son pick up women. She brags on how young she looks for having a nearly grown son, which Joey says is one of the advantages of teen pregnancy. Or maybe these are just more dumb jokes.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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