Saturday, September 24, 2022

What Happened to Matt LeBlanc – From Top of the Heap to Top Gear

Matt LeBlanc and the rest of the Friends cast recently made headlines as they came together to pay tribute to James Burrows, who directed many of the show’s best episodes. Matt LeBlanc had one of the least publicly active careers after the end of Friends. Now it’s been announced that he’ll be part of the new cast of BBC’s Top Gear. What has the actor been doing for the past decade?

Matt LeBlanc Before Friends

Before his breakout role as Joey Tribbiani in the NBC sitcom Friends, Matt LeBlanc was most known for his work in commercials and music videos. But before ever appearing on camera, LeBlanc was an apprentice carpenter outside Boston, Massachusetts. But New England’s winters gave him an appetite for work that would keep him indoors, and he moved to New York to work as a model.

His first TV appearance was in a commercial for Heinz Tomato Ketchup, in 1987. Later that year, he was in an ad for Levis. The next year he was in an ad for Cherry 7Up (a product they should really bring back).

Also in 1988, he had a notable role in TV 101, a drama aired on CBS. Unfortunately, the show was scheduled against ABC’s Who’s the Boss? and Roseanne, and NBC’s Matlock. This led to the show’s cancellation with 4 of the 17 produced episodes going unaired.

Matt LeBlanc as Vinny in Married with Children
Matt LeBlanc as Vinny in Married with Children

In 1990, Matt LeBlanc appeared in the music video for Jon Bon Jovi’s “Miracle,” which was used in the Young Guns II soundtrack. In 1991, LeBlanc received his first starring role, in the Married… with Children spin-off Top of the Heap. The show did better than the other two attempted spin-offs, but was still cancelled after only seven episodes, ending in May 1991.

Matt LeBlanc was also in the music video for Alanis Morissette’s 1991 single “Walk Away,” and in 1994 was in the video for Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band’s hit song “Night Moves”.

Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani

Friends first aired on NBC on September 22, 1994, running for ten seasons, until May 6, 2004. The show was in the top ten for its entire run, with a total of 62 Primetime Emmy nominations. In TV Guide‘s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, Friends was ranked 21. In 2013, nearly a decade after it’s end, Friends was ranked 24th on Writer’s Guild of America’s 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time.

On the show, Matt LeBlanc played Joey Tribbiani, who in turned played Doctor Drake Ramoray on a fictionalized version of Days of Our Lives, an NBC soap opera. Throughout the show, most of Joey’s character development revolves around his unfortunate and brief romantic relationships. One thing that separated Friends from many contemporary sitcoms was its use of an ensemble cast. Where most sitcoms of the day had a clear central character, Friends gave each character nearly equal weight across a season, and behind the scenes, the actors even engaged in collective salary negotiations.

LeBlanc will most likely always be best known as Joey from Friends
LeBlanc will most likely always be best known as Joey from Friends

 

A year before Friends ended, LeBlanc married Melissa McKnight, a former model. Their daughter Marina was born in 2004, and briefly suffered severe seizures, though the time she was 2, the symptoms had mostly stopped.

When Friends ended on May 6, 2004, it was watched by over 5.25 million people, making it the most watched thing on television since the Seinfeld finale 6 years prior. During the show’s run, Matt LeBlanc also appeared in several films, starring in Ed, All the Queen’s Men, and Lost in Space. He also appeared in another Bon Jovi music video, for the song “Say It Ain’t So.”

What is Matt LeBlanc Doing Now in 2018

Immediately after the end of Friends, Matt LeBlanc took over the timeslot with his own spinoff, Joey. Unfortunately the show was not able to compete with American Idol, and was cancelled without finishing its second season.

While Joey was being cancelled, LeBlanc was getting a divorce from his wife. The media had recently brought attention to his interactions with strippers and alcohol, and later, LeBlanc would admit to getting DUI in the early 2000s. However, the couple remained cordial after the divorce, maintaining joint custody of their daughter Marina.

Matt LeBlanc as himself in Episodes
Matt LeBlanc as himself in Episodes

In 2011, LeBlanc appeared as a fictionalized version of himself in BBC/Showtime’s Episodes, a sitcom about remaking an English show for American audiences. His appearance earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series Comedy The next year, he’d appear on the eighteenth series of Top Gear. In his interview he discussed his interest in cars through his life, and went on to set the fastest lap in the show’s Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, beating Rowan Atkinson’s time. Matt LeBlanc appeared twice more on the show, and presented the standalone spin-off Top Gear: The Races.

All this likely contributed to the BBC’s decision to recently announce that they would be adding Matt LeBlanc to the new Top Gear lineup. LeBlanc is nearly opposite in demeanor from his predecessor, Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson had been on the show since 1988, but in 2015 the BBC opted to not renew his contract after Clarkson got in a physical fight with one of his producers. Clarkson, along with the other previous hosts, will be appearing in a new series available through Amazon sometime in 2016.

 

Matt LeBlanc setting the fastest celebrity lap in Top Gear history
Matt LeBlanc setting the fastest celebrity lap in Top Gear history

LeBlanc himself has said he’s amazed at the response the announcement has received. While most of it has been positive, there are people questioning the decision. Jeremy Clarkson was a known auto journalist before Top Gear, and though LeBlanc has some experience with cars, he doesn’t have a career of experience the way Chris Evans does. He is also going to be the first non-British Top Gear presenter.

LeBlanc’s will be the fifth series of the revamped Top Gear, and at the same time, he’ll be working on the fifth season of Episodes. While the air date for the premiere of Episodes is still unknown, Top Gear is set to broadcast in May 2016.

Morgan Sennhauser
Morgan Sennhauser is a thoroughbred millennial, who has focused on working against censorship and surveillance in Africa and the Middle East. Now living in North Carolina, Morgan spends his time advocating for minority groups in impoverished regions, and writing about related topics.
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