HBO Max launched on Wednesday with the entire library of “Friends” as its cornerstone selling point. But for completists, HBO Max is still missing a component of the “Friends” Creative Universe: The spinoff series “Joey,” which is nowhere to be found on the new streaming service.
An HBO Max spokesperson confirmed that the streamer hasn’t licensed “Joey” yet, “but we’re always assessing available shows to see what will be a good fit and well received by subscribers.”
The Matt LeBlanc comedy aired on NBC from 2004 to 2006 as a direct sequel to “Friends,” and followed LeBlanc’s character, Joey Tribbiani, as he moved to Los Angeles to advance his career as an actor. Drea de Matteo starred as Joey’s older sister, Gina, while Paulo Costanzo was his nephew, Michael. Jennifer Coolidge, Andrea Anders, Ben Falcone and Miguel A. Nunez Jr. also starred.
“Joey” opened to strong viewership, and even decent reviews: Variety, for example, called it a “polished and likable half-hour.” But those initial ratings slid, and although NBC renewed it for a second season, the show was soon canceled. All told, 46 episodes of “Joey” were produced (although the last eight never aired on NBC).
Former “Friends” producers Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan created “Joey,” teamed with producer-director Kevin S. Bright, one-third of the Bright/Kauffman/Crane trio that executive produced the original series.
“Friends,” of course, has turned into a streaming juggernaut, thanks to its time on Netflix, where a new, younger generation discovered the show through countless binges. That’s why HBO Max paid $425 million for the exclusive streaming rights to the show. And also why the streamer hoped to launch with a “Friends” reunion special, a taped interview with the cast (who are set to earn at least $2 million each) that has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps because of its short life and cancellation, “Joey” has become more of a punch line and less a part of the “Friends” canon. LeBlanc poked fun of the show in his Showtime series “Episodes,” and Bright has said in several interviews that some of the choices made for the character in Joey were ultimately a “huge mistake.”
Nonetheless, as a streamer looking to offer a volume of choices, it might be seen as a bit surprising that HBO Max wouldn’t include “Joey” as an add-on for “Friends” superfans. The show was produced and is owned by Warner Bros. TV, after all, so it’s already inside the corporate family. As of now, it doesn’t appear that “Joey” is available on any streamer — but episodes can be found for digital purchase.