Matt LeBlanc has been little seen since his ill-conceived "Friends" spinoff "Joey" crashed and burned three years ago. While that show sputtered out after two seasons on NBC, it's failure should not take away from the enormous success LeBlanc enjoyed with "Friends." And no doubt he hopes to recapture some of that magic with his newly announced series "Episodes," a co-production between Showtime and the BBC set to air next year.
This showcase for LeBlanc is being shepherded by two sitcom veterans -- "Friends" co-creator David Crane and "Mad About You" producer Jeffrey Klarik. The single-camera comedy will follow the misadventures of an English couple whose urbane Britcom is dumbed down for American audiences with the casting of LeBlanc, who will play an exaggerated version of himself. As he said in today's news release: "I am so glad I got the part, seeing someone else play Matt LeBlanc would have been devastating."
Playing the dimwitted but kindhearted Joey Tribiani on "Friends" for 10 years served LeBlanc well. He contended for lead actor in a comedy series at the Emmy Awards in each of the last three years of "Friends." He faced strong competition, losing first in 2002 to Ray Romano (his only win for "Everybody Loves Raymond") then to Tony Shalhoub (the first of three wins to date for "Monk") and finally to Kelsey Grammer (the last of his four wins for "Frasier").
Perhaps like his "Friends" co-star Courteney Cox -- who seems to have a hit with "Cougar Town" after a miss with "Dirt" -- the third time will be the charm for LeBlanc as well. "Episodes" should get a boost as it can boast of the pedigree of the BBC in partnership with Showtime. The pubcaster is long-renowned stateside for the excellence of its programming. And the paycaster is on a roll, having just celebrated its first regular series Emmy win with Toni Collette taking home lead actress in a comedy series for "United States of Tara."
Photo: Matt LeBlanc. Credit: NBC