'Joey' not a clever spinoff

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The good news is that "Joey" (7 p.m., NBC) is not horrible. But its merely adequate status is depressing in itself. The sole reason you won't turn it off immediately is that, over the years, you've probably developed a reservoir of affection for Matt LeBlanc's character from "Friends." We all loved Ringo, too, but somewhere around his third solo album, affection alone was not enough to sustain interest.

It didn't have to be this way. You can make intelligent spinoffs. "Cheers" was a great, one-liner driven sitcom. "Frasier" shocked and delighted everyone by becoming an entirely different, and to my mind superior, comedy. "Joey" unfolds with the same tired three-camera-and-a-laugh-track sitcom format that viewers just don't accept as "real" anymore.

McDonough's character is a hotshot member the National Institutes of Health's task force. If a funky medical emergency breaks out, he's got to be there lickety-split. We quickly learn that he is a very, very busy man with a job that has taken a toll on his personal life. And we also see that "Medical" will go to preposterous lengths to make that point.

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