"Friends" star Matt LeBlanc happy to send himself up

LOS ANGELES Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:57pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Matt LeBlanc is heading back to TV after a four-year absence, playing a version of his old "Friends" character in a satire on U.S. network television.

So it's a good thing that LeBlanc, 43, has no trouble sending up his womanizing air-head alter ego Joey Tribbiani either in real-life or on screen.

"If people really believe me as that character, I have done my job," LeBlanc told reporters on Thursday, saying he is often greeted with the Joey catch-phrase "How you doin'?".

"I don't look on it as a negative thing. I take it as a compliment," LeBlanc said.

There are plenty "Friends" inside jokes in the new Showtime/BBC comedy co-production "Episodes," which tells of the hair-raising process of remaking a hit British TV show into a new program for American network television.

In the program, LeBlanc is chosen to play the lead character in a remake of a fictional British show that featured an elderly and erudite school principal. The big difference is that in the U.S. remake, the principal is turned into a high school hockey coach.

"Episodes" marks a comeback for LeBlanc after 10 years on "Friends" and another two on the TV comedy "Joey", which took his aspiring actor character to Los Angeles and ended in 2006.

LeBlanc said he had passed on most other TV offers since "Joey" because after 12 years of playing the same character, "I wanted to take some time off and spend time with my daughter."

But he said yes to "Episodes" after just one meeting, mostly because it is written by "Friends" co-creator David Crane.

"I committed right there. It's nice to be back with writing I have real faith in," LeBlanc said.

"Episodes" is due to premiere on cable channel Showtime in January. It promises to skewer U.S. network television, the short attention spans of TV executives and an industry that Crane described as "ruled by fear, panic and second-guessing" of how audiences and advertisers will react.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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