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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
TV's obsession with spin-offs

by Darren Waters
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Will LeBlanc be going it alone?
Matt LeBlanc is reportedly in talks to star as Joey Tribbiani in a spin-off from the popular sitcom Friends.

If Joey Tribbiani goes into production, the sitcom will join a long line of spin-offs that have found success and failure in almost equal measure.

The reasoning behind a spin-off is clear - sometimes it is hard to let go of a sure-fire money earner.

In the case of Friends, all six of the lead actors have made it increasingly clear over the last few years that they are beginning to tire of the characters that not only made their careers but which are also in danger of defining their careers.

But Friends is still an enormously popular programme worldwide and the temptation to keep the franchise alive must be an extremely strong one for producers and executives at NBC.

US spin-off highlights
CSI: CSI Miami
Baywatch: Baywatch Nights and Baywatch Hawaii
Soap: Benson
Beverly Hills 90210: Melrose Place
Hill Street Blues: Beverly Hills Buntz
Married...with Children: Top of the Heap
Audiences too often find it difficult to say goodbye to their favourite series and a show based around the life and times of Joey would ease the pain for many.

Ten years ago NBC executives faced a similarly difficult decision - what could they do once Boston bar sitcom Cheers came to an end.

But the decision to spin-off Cheers into Frasier must surely go down as one of the most successful TV ideas of all time.

Over the last decade Frasier has garnered more Emmys nominations than any other comedy in history, and has proved itself to be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, derived from one of the other greatest sitcoms of all time.

But before Matt LeBlanc puts pen to paper he should remember that for every Frasier there is a Joanie Loves Chachi and The Golden Palace.

Classic sitcom Happy Days spawned a number of shows with varying pedigrees.

Laverne and Shirley, based on two characters who were little more than friends of smooth-talking Fonzie in Happy Days, became a phenomenon in the US.

UK spin-off highlights
Dr Who: K9 and Company
Are You Being Served?: Grace and Favour
Porridge: Going Straight
Grange Hill: Tucker's Luck
It ran side by side with Happy Days, eventually becoming more popular than the original.

Less successful was Joanie Loves Chachi, a second Happy Days spin-off based around the lives of childhood sweethearts.

The first show opened to huge ratings but the series quickly lost its appeal and ended after just 17 episodes.

Equally unsuccessful was The Golden Palace, an ill-considered spin-off from The Golden Girls, the popular sitcom about four women growing old gracelessly.

The show that spawned the most spin-offs was US sitcom All in the Family.

It produced four spin-offs and two spin-offs of the spin-offs.

Ironically, the show itself was based on the British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.

It's not just comedies that produce offspring.

Dallas and Dynasty produced Knots Landing and The Colbys, and Buffy spawned Angel.

In the UK, broadcasters have not been immune to the idea.

Long-running hospital drama Casualty gave rise to Holby City, while ITV's The Bill has given rise to MIT.

Teen soap opera Hollyoaks produced Movin' On as well as a short-lived late night version of the series.

Spin-offs are now an established part of TV but few ever duplicate the success of the original.

Most feel like a last fling before the end of a long-standing romance and Matt LeBlanc should think long and hard before deciding on his own spin-off.


What might a Friends spin-off show be about? BBC News Online users sent us their ideas.

I wonder if this decision represents an admission on the part of Matt LeBlanc that his future career doesn't lie in films. All the Friends actors have tried to launch film careers, with varying degrees of success, and some of them may find it hard to bite off the hand that feeds them. Being involved with the series for so long has rather stunted any movie careers they might have had.

Jennifer Aniston, for one, seems to crave a weightier role than she has had hitherto, and her last part as Jim Carrey's straight woman in Bruce Almighty can hardly have done her any favours.
Aidan, Germany (UK expat)

Friends has been great over the years but I think the idea of a spin-off with Joey is a poor one. The whole ensemble adds something to the mix but I believe that Joey, not being the sharpest suit in the store, wouldn't be able to carry a new show unless you had very strong characters around him. Characters which people are going to have to love almost instantaneously, the way things are in US television, otherwise the show will be cancelled.
Phil Walker, UK

I've got a great idea for a spin off. How about Friends, only this time, try making it funny
Ian Wheatley, UK
Even though I like Friends a lot, I don't think it would be a great idea to do an spin-off show about any of the characters. Friends is what it is now. Any other thing, like a movie or a spin-off, would never be as great as the original sitcom.
Valeria Lima, Paraguay

I think it will be all about him trying to become a successful actor. He'll probably move to another city a la Frasier. And I think it's going to be terrible.
Ross Taylor, UK

Joey moves to LA. He stars in a long running TV series. He lives alone. His supporting cast would be 2 neighbours, 1 actor from his TV series, 1 character from his local bar/coffee shop, 1 character from a leisure activity. The spin off is half Friends, half Frasier. Plenty of material for a team of writers, at least 24 episodes.
Jason, England

Friends is such a great series....so perhaps Joey could go on to be mistaken for the long lost CEO of a high powered hi tech co and he is installed at the top with Phoebe as his assistant - and between the two of them they cause havoc in their office tower...the other Friends could have cameo roles every now and again
D Uff, Israel

The only Friend I'd really be interested in seeing in her own spin-off would be Jennifer Aniston. She's funny, she's beautiful and she can act. She'd be able to give Mary Tyler Moore a run for her money in the TV classics stakes!!
Sam, UK

Same old format: character enters the room with some bizarre adornment (be it a silly haircut or item of clothing) accompanied by incongruous canned laughter and we are supposed to call it comedy. I pity me and all of my fellow-suffering housemates up and down the country who are forced to witness this drivel.
Dave M, UK

I've got a great idea for a spin off. How about Friends, only this time, try making it funny.
Ian Wheatley, UK

I think the best spin off from Friends would be about Ross' son Ben and his two mums, lots of potential there I think
Mark G, UK
Joey Tribiani moving to California. All about his stint with Days of our Lives, his life in California, etc. Maybe guest cameos from members of the cast. Maybe have Rachel's sister move there (Christina Applegate's character) trying to make it as an actress. With of course new cast members as neighbours, etc. Basically a new set of Friends for Joey, since the rest of the original cast will be married off with kids soon.
Heather, United States

I can only surmise that a spin-off featuring Joey would focus on his inept attempts to become a star actor.

Whilst his stupidity and charm works well in Friends, where it is balanced by the other five characters in the group, alone I fear that Joey's stupidity will not be enough to fill 24 episodes of 20 minutes each.

Please let them preserve Friends as it is and not flog a dead horse!
Stacey Mitchell, UK

Joey gets to hit the big time in Hollywood/Chandler and Monica divorce, so he moves with Joey too (becoming a self-hatiing drunk with a sense of humour). Joey meanwhile gets into all sorts of bother (with the usaul big name speical guests)starting as a B list and working to A list.
Rob Lee, UK

The Joey character in friends is more of a foil than the others. He gives the reaction and allows characters to bounce other stuff off him. Without him the character interaction wouldn't work as well but I'm not sure the character can sustain a show on his own. It would be like Baldrick without Blackadder.
Neil, UK

I think the best spin off from Friends would be about Ross' son Ben and his two mums, lots of potential there I think...
Mark G, UK

If the producers of Friends want to cash in on the sitcom's popularity, then the spin-off with Joey should have him finally getting a major acting role, in a sitcom called Chums.
Ian, France

I think spin off featuring Monica and Chandler would work. Monica is pregnant, they buy a house in the suburbs. Hopefully there would be guest appearances from the rest of the casr from time to time.
June Simpson, Brit in USA

Spin-offs have to have the strongest characters, Frasier is proof of this. If there were to be a spin-off from Friends, Joey is not the best bet
Chris, Reading, UK
It should revolve around his soap opera character, Dr Drake Raymone.
Gerard, Singapore

I think Central Perk could be the title of next series, based on the clientele of the Friends' coffee shop. It's an excellent opportunity to include new cast and have the old cast doing cameos...
Martin Randall, UK

"Joey" could be about pretty much anything they liked, with the added bonus that when the rest of the cast are a little short of work they can bring back the odd original character or two to boost the ratings.

I think it could end up like a modern day Some Mothers do 'Ave Em with Joey hunting for work after his acting in Days of our Lives finishes.

Wouldn't you love to see a transatlantic episode with him being intervied by Ricky "The Office" Gervais?
Russ, England

I am a great fan of Friends, but I'm not sure a spin-off with Joey would work very well; or with any of them to be honest.

I think what makes the show work so well now is all the lead characters and not just one or two. If there was a good supporting cast then it might be good, but to be honest that's doubtful. Leave it as it is I say.
Tracey, UK

Joey is the least funny character of an increasingly unfunny and past-it show. The spin-off is bound to be side-splitting (not).
Ed Barker, UK

Spin-offs have to have the strongest characters, Frasier is proof of this. If there were to be a spin-off from Friends, Joey is not the best bet, although funny within Friends my money would be on the stronger Chandler character making it big.
Chris, Reading, UK

I think it's a great idea, which avenues could be explored we can only imagine. His notorious love affairs through to his, at times, hilarious acting career
Stuart, Scotland
If any character in Friends has enough staying power to have a show devoted to him, it's Joey. While initially being the stereotypically "dumb" one, Joey's character has developed a depth which none of the other leads (particularly the other male leads) seem to have managed. This has to be attributed equally to Matt Le Blanc and the writers of Friends.

If you look at how much more depth Frasier Crane's character has taken on since he left Boston, you can see the potential for Joey to be a smash. But it's no sure thing.
Duncan MacIver, UK

They have never really developed the character of Joey as far as the others, so out of all the Friends characters, this is the one that could work. Especially as there is the whole celeb world to explore through his acting. Just don't let Rachel and Ross be in it they'll end up dominating the series like they currently do.
Sally, UK

Matt LeBlanc should think very carefully about a spin-off, as his previous experience was the spin-off Top of the Heap from Married with Children. That show was, hard to believe, even worse than the original.

There could be a spin-off with the Friends children of Ross (with his first wife and with Rachel), and the child that Chandler and Monica will adopt. As Friends itself makes clear, these children will have the super-advanced ability to completely care for themselves, and you will never actually see the parents.

Or how about Ross as the host of a Steve Irwin-like show? Off in exotic places and getting into wacky predicaments with the natives and horrible, but funny, accidents with various reptiles and insects.
Mark, USA

Matt LeBlanc's character Joey Tribbiani is one of the main reasons I watch Friends. Therefore I think it's a great idea, which avenues could be explored we can only imagine. His notorious love affairs through to his, at times, hilarious acting career.
Stuart, Scotland

We don't need a friends spin off. It wasn't that funny to begin with. There were some moments but now NBC has "stolen" one of my favorite BBC shows and plans to make what I'm sure will be an awful attempt at a remake. The US version of Coupling. Who needs it? I will not watch it. I prefer the BBC version.
Mel, USA

Spin-offs sound like a good idea and have been in many cases, but why don't they give new shows and new actors a chance for a change? Too often we see the same people on our screen day in and day out, perhaps they should move over and give other people a go.
Mak, England, UK

Chandler and Monica moving to Tulsa permanently and having a sitcom there, especially if they raise a dysfunctional family?
Ed, UK
It would obviously be about exactly the same as Friends: quirky, well-timed comedy. It works well, I wish him luck although would prefer to see him in more film roles as I thought he was excellent in Lost In Space. He's quite a charmer.
Alan C, UK

I'm still waiting for the only Friends spin-off I'd even think of watching - The Adventures of Marcel the Monkey.
Robert del Valle, Detroit USA

A spin of for Matt LeBlanc should focus on his character's profession as an actor and the role he plays in his soap opera. The possibilities for the storylines and the character are endless.
Rob, UK

Joey Tribbiani heads off to LA to follow his dream of Hollywood only to end up as a waiter. Each week we see the cream of Hollywood eat as Joey hits on them for a job.
phil stevens, Uk

Entertainment people seem to love stories about people like themselves, so Joey will probably move to LA to pursue his acting career. This will provide both a change of scenery and an easy excuse for keeping cameo appearances of the other five to a minimum. Would I watch it? Probably. I thought the original show looked stupid, too, but it hooked me anyway.
Matt, USA

Joey leaves New York to pursue acting in LA, and, of course, comical fish-out-of-water story lines abound. However, just like Laverne and Shirley, no one will want to watch him in sunny California. .
Robert Meeker, USA

If the show does go ahead, I tell you one thing - it guarantees that Joey and Rachel will not end up together, despite how it's looking right now. Which means almost certainly we're going to have a nice little package of Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica and Joey and Phoebe almost getting together before one or both of them ends the series with the immortal (but cheesy) line, "Let's just be friends." You read it here first!
Sheamus, UK

Chandler and Monica moving to Tulsa permanently and having a sitcom there, especially if they raise a dysfunctional family? Joey actually becoming a hit movie star and dealing with the problems of being a prima donna? Phoebe's own massage parlour? Ross and Rachael getting married and continuing friends in New York?
Ed, UK

It makes it easier to get into a comedy when you know the charactors well so I'd be more likely to watch a spin-off to a new comedy that has had nothing to prove itself
Darren Vine, England

If its going to be about Joey, then it would have to involve him trying to progress as an actor, the pitfalls and perils. I think Monica and Chandler would have made a better spin-off, with two characters to bounce ideas off, although that could easily turn into "Dharma and Greg Mk II".
Simon Aylett, UK

It could be about Joey's family as he has a big family according to Friends and we could see if it was the typical Italian family or not. Also, I'm sure all his sisters that we've seen in Friends could make a few good story lines. It's worth a go surely.
Kim , UK

Enemies: Joey moves to Chicago to look for work and is forced to rent a seedy apartment alone. His neighbours are terrifying manifestations of what people become when isolated by urban indifference. Comedy ensues.
yinch, uk

I think it's a good idea. I'm not an avid follower of Friends or any comedy really but do watch them occasionally. It makes it easier to get into a comedy when you know the charactors well so I'd be more likely to watch a spin-off to a new comedy that has had nothing to prove itself.
Darren Vine, Warwick, England

Joey finally manages to establish himself as a Hollywood star, despite his conspicuous lack of talent. He is seen undertaking parts in a variety of movies, including blockbusters and turkeys. Speculation abounds about his private life and he struggles to stay on a even keel.
A Sellar, UK

Well I don't think Joey could carry a show on his own. Ross & Rachel could be a good spin off
Dilip Mistry
If they are thinking of basing it on Joey, then I would imagine that it would be about his struggling career as an actor. It would make for some good laughs, but whether they could carry on with the success of Friends, I have my doubts. I loved Cheers and absolutely can't get enough of Frasier, so I suppose they can only try.
Pauline, Scotland

I would like to see a Friends spin-off with one of the cast members settling down to family life as none of them can really play the 20-something no-hoper characters they were orignally playing. Most people don't know but Friends character Phoebe Buffay is in herself a spin-off character as her twin sister Ursula used to appear in Mad About You.
Stephen Tonks, England

I really don't like Friends, but I think that a spin off would be disasterous because if for instance Joey got his own show, they would obviously need other characters, which would have to live up to the quality of the original gang. They'd have trouble avoiding making new characters pale imitations of the original.
Stuart, Wales

They should make Joey a TV commentator for a soap opera based a news show. An Entertainment Tonight version of Soap Digest. This way they could do tonnes of soap opera cameo appearances and throw in a TV or movie star into the mix to keep ratings up. The job would move him to LA and leave his "friends" in New York. Of course several guest appearances by former co-stars keeps it interesting. Brooke Burke would make an excellent co-host/possible love interest; not to mention great eye candy to the male audience. Throw in a few struggling actor roomates and neighbours and it could be a hit.
Tom Varghese, USA

I would love to see a spin-off series about Joey, mainly out of curiosity but also because he is, for me, the funniest character. However, the appeal of Friends lies for many in the range of characters on the screen. Although Frasier enjoys unprecedented success, the series is not entirely about one man.
Paul Mudie, UK

Well I don't think Joey could carry a show on his own. Ross & Rachel could be a good spin off - how they end up moving away together. Or Ross could do a Frazier special or try to move away and move back with his parents.

Ross doing the Frazier style would be one where his job takes more control of his life, a fellow professor moves in with him and brings along her problems.

Now Chandler and Monica could get divorced and Chandler could go and move out where his mother comes to stay with him and turns his world upside down.

Phoebe could have a sitcom around her wacky world, where she gets a top exec job at a advertising company and because of her thinking she is always coming up with innovative slogans for products.
Dilip Mistry, UK

Joey is nothing without Chandler, the two bounce of one another fantastically in Friends so I can't see Joey Tribbiani making it on his own. Perhaps they need to bring the Odd Couple up to date?
Matt, UK

I think that a Joey spin-off show would not work. Each character of friends adds their own brand of humour and magic to the show. When five members of the cast are taken away then you lose that magic which has kept Friends at the top of American TV.
David Hope, Scotland

They could do a spin-off with Monica and Rachel to explain how an often-unemployment chef and a coffee shop waitress could afford to live in a swanky apartment near Central Park.
Peter Martin, UK

I think it has enormous potential. Matt's character Joey is the one which has evolved the most out of all six, and I think his is the one which could be developed even further. I am not looking forward to the end of Friends, but I think that this would help to "ease the blow".
Fiona, UK

Rachel and Ross should be married and the same with Chandler and Monica and with Phoebe and Joey... friends should go on forever... I hate to see them all go. I'll miss them all terribly.
autumn olsen, utah

Even though Friends is one of the best sitcoms of all time, the only one of the six who could carry a spin-off series is Phoebe, with Lisa Kudrow. David Schwimmer has other intentions like directing, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston want to get into Hollywood blockbusters more and Matthew Perry wouldn't be interesting enough on his own. Which leaves Joey (Matt Le Blanc) and Phoebe. Maybe they could do one together, now that would be something.
Andrew Chilton, NZ

Take a page out of Britain's book and dont ruin the memory of your great sitcoms with a terrible spin off. There was never a 'Trigger' was there!?
Pete, England

I have to disagree with Andrew Chilton above, because I think the only character who could carry a spin-off series is indeed Joey Tribbiani. This is because the other five character are either tied to each other or simply not important enough. Monica and Chandler and, unless there's a major disappointment, Ross and Rachel will be together and unable to be the highlight of a spin-off without their respective halves. And despite Lisa Kudrow's fantastic acting ability, Phoebe has always been a bit of a character on the side, with few major storylines and considerably fewer bonds with the other five. She has shown little depth so far, and now that she's engaged, she seems like the type who would settle down to start a family. A series centred around her would run out storyline ideas very quickly.
Michael Daventry, Ankara, Turkey

Joey lands a role where his character is gay and he's in a scene where he has to kiss a man. Disgusted at first, he becomes intrigued with the idea. After the kiss he must now question his sexuality and concludes he is bi-sexual. There could be a guest appearence from Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) or Sir Elton John.
Tim Howard, USA

Joey will be mistaken for a recently established celebrity; the whole mistaken identities ordeal. The celebrity is in fact kidnapped. Joey leads the life of the celebrity with all its pleasures and hazards. Eventually the kidnappers catch up with him and kidnap him as well. He comes face to face with the real guy and they talk. Ransom isn't paid, but because of a paparazzi pursuit, the police are notified and the celebrity dies in the crossfire. Joey takes up his identity forever until...
Samy, UK

Joey should be homeless. There hasn't been a sitcom about a homeless dude before, nevermind a really good looking one. This would be a comedy gold mine.
E-Rock, Canada




SEE ALSO:
LeBlanc's post-Friends angst
17 Oct 02  |  Entertainment
Friends spin-off talks 'accelerate'
22 Jul 03  |  Entertainment


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