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The ''Joey'' Thing

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 20, 2005

There are shows that can drive you crazy if you look at them long enough. The ones that you keep thinking, ''There is probably something really good in the middle of this, but no one has any idea how to get to it.'' Or, ''That was a great laugh there, and I wish there had been eight or 10 more in this episode.'' Or, ''This actor is quite accomplished, and I would like to see him/her in something better than this.''

I have felt all those things watching ''Joey.'' I am a fan of Jennifer Coolidge's work, and she is fine here. Drea de Matteo isn't bad, either, although I still don't think the show has figured out a good way to write for her. Andrea Anders has fared much better, both by getting a chance to play a lot of notes, and by playing the daylights out of them. She is the real find on ''Joey,'' and I hope she gets a great showcase somewhere once this thing is done.

Which will probably be by the end of the season. NBC made that seem even more likely with its decision not to include ''Joey'' in either its Thursday or Tuesday comedy blocks in January. The network has said the show will be back after the Olympics, but that's not exactly an endorsement.

After watching the show more than once, including an hour-long telecast last week, I can see why NBC is not that interested. You have to work really hard just to watch ''Joey.'' You have to hope that there's a big laugh around the corner, or feel incredibly grateful for a little laugh. And watching a comedy just shouldn't take a lot of effort.

Especially not ''Joey.'' It's undemanding by design, much the way ''Friends'' was. And, as I think I've said before, it's a very traditional comedy stylistically in a period when it has to compare to some more daring sitcoms that are also funnier. (Do I need to go through the list again?)

I have wanted to like ''Joey.'' I really have. I would rather watch it than ''Hot Properties'' or ''Out of Practice'' or ''Rodney'' or ''Freddie'' or ''Stacked.'' (Although a ''Stacked'' producer told me before this season that it was going to get better, I haven't been able to care enough to find out for myself.) At the end of the day, though, I don't like ''Joey'' enough to watch it except for professional curiosity -- and Andrea Anders. When there are a lot of reruns on, that can get me to tune in. When the DVR is overloaded with other, better shows, it can't.

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