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LeBlanc's 'Joey' will still be there for you



Story by: Jack Foley

THE Friends themselves may be about to embark upon their tenth and final series, but at least one will be back, once the successful franchise comes to a close.

According to Reuters, Matt LeBlanc, who plays Joey, will be back on NBC next year, after signing a deal to return in his own spin-off series when the show ends its run next year.

The new half-hour programme will be called Joey and is scheduled to premiere in the fall of 2004, in the 8pm Thursday time slot now occupied by Friends.

Joey will mark the first NBC comedy spin-off since Cheers gave way to Frasier 11 years ago.

Returning with LeBlanc for the new show will be three members of the Friends creative team - executive producers, Kevin Bright, Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan.

NBC President, Jeff Zucker, said LeBlanc was the only one of the six Friends principals approached about a possible spin-off, owing to the fact that 'Joey has emerged as the character America roots for and loves'.

In recent seasons, stuggling actor and womaniser, Joey, has fallen in love with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), while also battling with best friend, Ross (David Schwimmer) for the attentions of another woman.

He has been twice nominated for an Emmy Award for the role.

Friends currently ranks as the No. 1 comedy in the US, averaging 21.8 million viewers a week, according to Nielsen Media Research.

For the final series, NBC plans to air just 18 new episodes, along with six 'classic' episodes, to be voted for online by fans.

Details of the new Joey show remain scarce, including whether the spin-off would remain set in New York or move elsewhere.

Although Zucker has hinted that it would be easier to take him out of New York because his character is an actor and it would avoid 'obvious questions about what happened to the other friends'.

The financial terms of LeBlanc's TV contract were not disclosed, but the new deal also calls for him to star in two feature films for Warner Bros. Pictures.

He has previously enjoyed Big Screen success with a cameo role in both Charlie's Angels movies, and as a space captain in Lost In Space, alongside William Hurt, Gary Oldman and Heather Graham.

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