Matt LeBlanc tiptoes towards middle age in a wholly Hollywood male manner: improving

Grace Dent on the TV comedy actor, 48 today

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The Independent Culture

Matt LeBlanc is another year older, but in our hearts he's forever young. Or to put it another way, on reruns the world over, his Friends alter ego Joey Tribbiani omnipresently remains a buff, beautiful 28. He's mistaking Monica's offer of lemonade for a come-hither comment, whipping his pants off in hapless abandon. He's doing lunges wearing all of Chandler's clothes. And could Chandler BE any more incredulous?

While age cannot wither Joey, LeBlanc tiptoes towards middle age in a wholly Hollywood male manner: improving. On The Graham Norton Show recently, LeBlanc opined that the media's reaction to the natural march of time is often bewildering. "The headline was 'Beached Male'," he mourned of a recent paparazzi shot. That stung a little. There was another headline that said, "Fat LeBlanc".


But his recent work in BBC2's Episodes – playing himself as an A-list ego-bath sporting the emotional depth of a puddle – is his finest hour. Episodes, by Friends co-creator and writer David Crane – allows LeBlanc to poke rip-roarious fun at what happens to household names like himself who, thanks to a show's stellar success, are automatically greenlit for comedy projects everywhere, whether the writers and crew want them or not.

Viewers are tempted to think this is how LeBlanc felt during his thwarted post-Friends spin-off Joey, of which LeBlanc has said recently that "it was doomed from the start. The writing and the jokes were OK but the conflict and the obstacles in the stories were not valid enough. In Friends Joey was always glass half-full; in Joey he was glass half-empty. And that was sad".

In Episodes, as "horrible Matt LeBlanc", he is magnificent as an over-pampered idiot, infuriating but endearing on a thousand levels. Yet any chance of him leaving Tribbiani behind over the coming years look slender. The internet almost melted this month over comments by his dad that during Friends recordings LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston used to "make out". Two decades may have passed but we're still fixated on how Joey is doooin'.