‘Friends’: The One Where Joey Struggles to Survive in 2019

We recently delved into the prospect of whether Friends would be able to survive in 2019 if it stayed the same as it was in its original incarnation. Afterward, we also looked at the mess Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) and pondered how he even managed to stay a popular character in the ’90s let alone now.

Let’s take a minute to look at another one of the male characters: Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc). If you had to compare him to Ross above, Joey isn’t quite as bad, though sometimes came close to being tied.

As we all remember, Joey competed against Ross for Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) affections. Let’s also not forget Joey is the only cast member to have his own brief spinoff show after Friends left the air.

What would a 2019 version of Joey look like? If we ever see him at middle age, likely very different.

Joey might be canceled in 2019 based on his ’90s characteristics

Matt LeBlanc played Joey on the hit NBC series 'Friends.'
Matt LeBlanc played Joey on the hit NBC series ‘Friends.’ | David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

It’s no secret that Joey was easily the most promiscuous of all his fellow roommates. There never was a count on how many women he’d had one-night-stands with, but it must have been in the hundreds.

Back in the 1990s, this was still a rib-poking joke of all males living in a big city. In 2019, a character boasting about sleeping with a new woman every day/night — while working as an actor no less — would be nixed by a network executive team at first pitch. The same goes for the way Joey treated women.

Only Chandler (Matthew Perry) looks like a saint in comparison to the escapades of Joey and Ross. Even Chandler was far from perfect — he doled out some transphobic jokes at his parent’s expense — yet he could probably survive 2019 based on his general character traits.

What would a rebooted Joey look like 13 years later? A few other attributes would have to be adjusted accordingly.

The intellectually challenged side of Joey

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Many sitcoms have used the dimwitted character trope for years, usually to not the greatest effect. In past decades, sitcoms would often make a woman the ditz for feigned laughs.

A good example would be Chrissy (Suzanne Somers) from the classic sitcom Three’s Company. They didn’t make her overly dumb in the beginning. However, as the show went along, she became so stupid, it started to become an annoyance.

Joey was in the same playbook, all the way to the point where his idiocy eventually brought eye rolls every time he’d utter his “How You Doin’? Sometimes we saw Joey act like a little kid, even to the point where he slept with a famous soft toy penguin (Hugsy), plus a Cabbage Patch Kid. All of that contrasts his womanizing persona while somehow making sense at the same time.

A 2019 Joey would probably be none of that to avoid being annoying and offensive to just about everybody. The writing team might also have to cancel Joey from even existing because of those traits. Of course, the original writers would argue you don’t have any comedy if you don’t make a character as outrageous as possible.

There is an argument to be made there. Even so, there’s still a lot they could have done with Joey today to work around his unacceptable quirks. Part of that could be in him being the same while putting him in his place or paying a steeper price 110% of the time.

Did Joey deserve a spin-off?

In reality, we know LeBlanc was the only one willing to spin-off his Joey character into his own NBC sitcom. Everyone should have seen it coming it wouldn’t last as long as Friends.

We’re only 13 years removed from when Joey went off the air, and the shift in our culture on acceptable characters has done a triple 360. Critics savaged Joey when it followed the Friends finale in 2004 with enough fans tuning in to win it a second season.

By 2006, viewers realized Joey couldn’t really sustain as an interesting character while also being on the cusp of when things started to change.

Joey Tribbiani is now another character best kept in a certain time period like Ross Geller. Should we ever be lucky to see a Friends reunion, we might be surprised to see a middle-age Joey as a far more conservative person as he battles his colonoscopies.