As Friends star Matt LeBlanc gets ready to launch Joey (Sept. 9 on NBC), we thought he could use some expert advice from stars of past spin-offs. After all, many actors from hit shows have spun well (Frasier), while others just plain rolled off a cliff (The Lone Gunmen). Here's what they had to say, Matt, so listen good!

Peri Gilpin
Spin-off: Frasier
Spun from: Cheers
"With a spin-off, you can't hide. [The network and the writers] know what you're thinking before you even think it. You can't even go to the bathroom without someone saying, 'I need you to come fit this costume.' You're joining a family that already exists, with its own rhythm."

Dean Haglund
Spin-off: The Lone Gunmen
Spun from: The X-Files
"There are three things to look for if your spin-off is in trouble: If TV Guide compares you to Joanie Loves Chachi; if the press references your new show with the title of your previous show and then the phrase 'lite' after it; and if the gift basket from the studio is smaller than the one you used to get at the other show."

Scott Baio
Spin-off: Joanie Loves Chachi
Spun from: Happy Days
"Doing a spin-off is everything that you can imagine times 10. And if the show hits, it's 10 times that. People want to make you happy and that's the strange thing. Your joke becomes the funniest joke. That made me a little uncomfortable but if you don't buy into it much, you'll be fine."

Maureen McCormick
Spin-offs: The Brady Brides, The Brady Bunch Hour and The Brady Kids
Spun from: The Brady Bunch
"Don't do any singing and dancing episodes. Don't get married along with your sister and don't move in with her. Don't do any cartoon versions of yourself. It would be frightening."

Joseph Bologna
Spin-off: Top of the Heap (co-starring Matt LeBlanc)
Spun from: Married... with Children
"Anybody doing a spin-off should keep this old story in mind. A man dies and finds himself up in the clouds. St. Peter looks and says, 'You're one of the few people on the borderline. You get to choose between heaven and hell. Let me show you a video. This is heaven.' It shows all these angels floating around to soft music. Then the guy is told, 'Here's hell.' It's a smoke-filled nightclub with women drinking and laughing. The guy says, 'I choose hell.' When he gets there, the women turn around and they're awful creatures with fangs. The guy goes back to St. Peter and says, 'You showed me the video of hell but it was nothing like that.' St. Peter says, 'Oh, that. That was the pilot.'"

Valerie Harper
Spin-off: Rhoda
Spun from: The Mary Tyler Moore Show
"You may be the captain of the team, but you're still a player. So what I used to do for the crew every Thursday, I'd bring a treat. Brownies or cookies or a big plate of nuts. You have to get a lot so everyone will be happy. And you don't have to know how to cook. You just have to know how to shop."

Polly Holliday
Spin-off: Flo
Spun from: Alice
"I really almost made myself sick because the publicity people wanted me to do so much. But you don't want to do the same interview over and over. Nobody wants to see that. So you have to be fresh with each person. Interviewers want to go to the actors they know first, not the unknowns, so you have to be prepared."

Misty Rowe
Spin-off: Hee-Haw Honeys
Spun from: Hee-Haw
"A spin-off is a blessing and a pinnacle of your TV career. I bought my second house and went to Tahiti, so treat yourself well. And if it doesn't work out, still make sure you go to Tahiti."

Master Shake
Spin-off: Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Spun from: Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast
"Matt, spin-offs are for jerk-offs. So listen up. If you need to reach me for autographs for you and your family, they are $1.50 apiece but you can get three for $5, which for my money is the best deal for your fantasy."


For an exclusive look inside Joey, read the new issue of TV Guide, on newsstands Thursday.