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High price for Joey could pay off as debut is acclaimed

LONDON – Five's huge payout for 'Friends' spin-off 'Joey' looks set to pay off as its US television debut was met with glowing reviews from critics, along with the biggest audience of the night.

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The series, which debuted in the US last night, stars Matt LeBlanc as struggling actor Joey Tribbiani following his move from New York to Los Angeles to try and make it as a Hollywood star. Even before the opening credits appear, Joey is seen getting on the wrong flight to Dallas.

The show stars Drea de Matteo as Joey's sister, Gina, who is best known for her role in 'The Sopranos' as Christopher's girlfriend who was killed by the mob family. 'Roadtrip' actor Paul Costanzo will play de Matteo's son Michael.

Some of the 'Friends' cast, including Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer, have agreed to make special guest appearances on 'Joey'. Schwimmer is also working as a director on the series.

Five won the bidding war after paying a reported £500,000 an episode. Channel 4 was given first refusal but said it was not prepared to pay what it deemed the "ludicrously" high asking price. ITV1 and Sky One had also expressed an interest in the show.

Five also picked up Warner Bros series 'Two and a Half Men' as part of the deal. The comedy, about three men from two generations learning what it means to be a man, stars Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer of 'Pretty in Pink' fame.

'Joey' will air on Five this autumn and marks a huge coup for the station, which is building a reputation for quality US dramas such as 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation', 'Law & Order' and 'The Shield'.

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