Monday, December 26, 2011


 I have probably cut Matt LeBlanc more slack than most "Friends" fans just by enduring two seasons of "Joey." Granted, it was mostly for the joy of seeing Drea de Matteo, who I discovered on "Joey," and not due to any sort of loyalty. Curiosity is what really gets me every time. It's the same reason I try to catch everything Joey Lawrence or Mark-Paul Gosselaar does. I'm eager to see if they can shed their iconic characters and still thrive in this new age of television, where the young and the talented (who are not necessarily the same people) rule.
When I heard the premise for this series—two British writers/producers go to L.A. to adapt their hit series for American audiences and end up doing a dumbed-down version with Matt LeBlanc as their star—I thought it could possibly be funny. The topic was definitely on par with the current industry trends of reproducing bastardized content from foreign nations ("The Office," "Ugly Betty," "Being Human," "Skins," "Shameless," "Prime Suspect," etc.), stripping it of everything that made it good and slathering it in "American" tropes. It was about time someone made fun of that, but I didn't know if it necessarily needed to be made fun of for a half-hour every week.

That would probably explain why they added the subplot of these two British imports arriving as a united front, equally alienated by L.A. culture and bonded by their love, their creativity, and their understandable xenophobia, and then dissolving into this creatively divided, morally corrupted, easily seduced shells of their former self-righteous selves. That, coupled with the constant digs at how "entertainment" is manufactured in L.A., and how nonchalant Americans are about exploitation and the accumulation of wealth, fame, and all of life's pleasures, make it an astute replacement for the void that "Entourage" left behind. While it's true that this series is better written and more entertaining than "Entourage," it does make me miss Ari and Lloyd a little less. I've always found the inner workings of the industry interesting, especially when it's depicted as the capitalistic and manipulative cesspool that I know it to be.

The shining star of the series though isn't even TribianiLeBlanc. Don't get me wrong. He's amazing in this. His sober moments where he's admitting that he knows when to turn Joey on and off and he knows exactly what sells in the American market, and his obnoxious and overly confident playboy personality are all very entertaining. But the highlight for me is Tamsin Greig. Gradually through the series she becomes the voice of reason, as her husband, played by Stephen Mangan, gets sucked in by LeBlanc. Her stunned and dumbfounded expressions, and sarcastic and derisive comments are the highlights of every episode. She reminds me of the female Ricky Gervais. Their line deliveries are very similar, where their voices go up at the end of a judgmental rhetorical question that essentially asks "Are you mad?!" or as we say in America: "Are you fucking kidding me?"

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