Will we be there for him?
Remember Matt LeBlanc? He was one of the stars of "Friends," and the only one to go on to star in a sequel. It was called "Joey" and lasted two seasons.
It would have been a better show — or, at least, funnier — had it been called "Chandler," but then LeBlanc wouldn't have played the role. Which, right about now, he might wish were true.
It has been announced that LeBlanc is going to try this TV thing again, this time in a series for Showtime called "LeBlanc." (Parenthetically, this reminds me of the series career of the legendary Bob Newhart. He starred in "The Bob Newhart Show," "Newhart" and "Bob" and said that his next show simply would be called "The.")
"LeBlanc" (the series) reportedly will star LeBlanc (the actor) as an actor looking for a comeback after not having a hit TV series for a while. If this sounds a bit familiar to you, it might be because you were one of the six other people to watch "The Comeback" — a decent attempt at a comedy on HBO about an actress who hadn't had a hit series for a while. The actress was portrayed by Lisa Kudrow, who was (all together now) LeBlanc's co-star on "Friends."
Wait. It gets better ... depending, that is, on your interpretation of the word "better."
LeBlanc's "character" in "LeBlanc" will be an actor named "Matt LeBlanc." Only, of course, it won't really be LeBlanc, it'll be someone more along the lines of an actor on the fringes of TV stardom ... someone along the lines of, say, Joey Tribbiani.
(A few years ago, Jennifer Grey played a character based on herself and called "Jennifer Grey" on a sitcom for ABC
called ... umm ... "It's like, you know .." ... Really, that's what it was called..)
LeBlanc's "LeBlanc" character on "LeBlanc" won't be starring on just any show, mind you. He'll be starring in an Americanized version of a show based on a hit show from Britain.
That sort of thing has a long tradition on TV, spawning both landmark hits ("All in the Family") and misses ("Coupling").
"Coupling" had a relevant history, as much as anything in this discussion can be considered relevant. The show came to NBC based off a British hit also called "Coupling" — which was based on an American hit series about six young singles living in New York.
Yup ... "Friends."
"LeBlanc" (the series) will be brought to Showtime by producers previously responsible for "Friends" and "Mad About You" — which makes sense, since back in the day characters from those two shows crossed-over and visited each others' series. Joey and Chandler wound up in the restaurant where Phoebe's twin sister Ursula worked, while Jamie and Fran wound up in Central Perk and tried in vain to order coffee from Phoebe. Hilarity ensued (or not), and Lisa Kudrow picked up two paychecks.
This sort of thing is hardly new. After all, "The Burns and Allen Show" debuted in 1950, with George and Gracie playing somewhat fictionalized versions of themselves. "Ozzie and Harriet" (and David and Ricky) portrayed a family with a rock 'n' roll singer. (Not to be confused with "The Patridge Family," which was a fictional show about a pop band, although lead singer David Cassidy was the real-life stepson of TV mom Shirley Jones.)
"It's Garry Shandling's Show," meanwhile, was a greatly under-appreciated series about Shandling's "life" away from the set. It also had one of TV's greatest theme songs.
For the sake of LeBlanc (the actor), let's hope that "LeBlanc" is more like "Garry" and less like "Joey." If not, he might take a hint from former co-star Matthew Perry — whose own series in development has just been announced. In the yet-unnamed show, Perry will star as a yet-unnamed character coming to grips with the realization that the first part of his life is over.
Say goodnight, Gracie.
Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin writes about television for Tempo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org