‘Episodes’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 3 years ago by

episodes poster close up ‘Episodes’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Have you ever worked on a project where all you can do is watch it spin into a terrible version of what you intended? Episodes is like that. Only funny.

Showtime’s Episodes is a fairly standard single-camera situation comedy about a fairly standard single-camera situation comedy. The show follows a husband and wife production team wrapping up a four-series run of their successful British comedy. At the BAFTA awards the two are approached by an American producer who promises them fame, money and ease in Hollywood if they’ll help adapt the show for American audiences. Matt LeBlanc (famous on Friends and infamous on Joey) is wretchedly miscast as the series headliner, and the couple’s relationship begins to strain as their work is twisted to the whims of the Hollywood system.

The heart of Episodes lies not in LeBlanc’s headlining role, but in the British husband and wife who are classic fish-out-of-water in Los Angeles. Beverly Lincoln is played by Tamsin Greig, and Stephen Mangan takes the role of her husband, Sean. Like their characters, the two are virtually unknown in the States – but that may change if Episodes gains some traction. And if it does, their performances will be the cause: the two are understated and funny in a very endearing way. Sean is the eternal optimist, pushing the two forward as they stumble through American culture and Hollywood chicanery. Beverly bites back with some of the best lines of the opening episodes, always cynical and distrustful (in a good way). The couple’s reaction when they discover the network head who pushed them to move to LA has never seen the show is perfect.

“Matt LeBlanc…? For the erudite, verbally dexterous headmaster of an elite boys’ academy, you’re suggesting… Joey?”

Matt LeBlanc, who will almost certainly be the initial draw for most of Episodes‘ viewers, is a much different actor than we’re used to seeing him be. The veteran TV star plays himself and is the American star of the Lincolns’ show. After being the butt of more than his fair share of jokes on Friends for a decade, LeBlanc (the character, at least) is a bitter, sharp-tongued jerk who’s dissatisfied with himself and everyone around him. He serves as a stand-in for the puffed-up movie star archetype, and surprisingly, he doesn’t disappoint. Far from the wild, expressive role that made him famous, LeBlanc is quiet and sarcastic in a way that makes him very believable as a TV star past his prime. It’s very enjoyable to watch him throw his weight around in a straightforward way while his handlers spin him for their own purposes. This could be LeBlanc’s defining post-Friends role, a la Lisa Kudrow’s self-referential role in The Comeback.

Much of the humor in the opening episodes comes from the culture shock that the Lincolns experience in Los Angeles. The situations are fun and mostly original, and the two get their share of solid one-liners. You’d expect nothing less from characters representing TV comedy writers – the formula has been working on NBC’s 30 Rock for years now. But refreshingly, unlike 30 Rock, the show-within-a-show is actually funny in and of itself, at least what little is shown in between the behind-the-scenes drama. The promise of the UK’s original keeps you hungry for more glimpses, and the struggle of the Lincolns to preserve their vision is heartfelt. A scene from the first episode, where a British actor bombs an American version of his character, is particularly good.

episodes still lincolns ‘Episodes’ Series Premiere Review & Discussion

Episodes takes far less advantage of its cable freedoms than other comedy shows. This is a refreshing change – coarse language is a lot of fun when used correctly and sparingly in comedy. Besides the writing liberties, the producers don’t take too much advantage of the looser reigns. The budget is obviously pretty weak: single-camera shots used on-location are easy giveaways. This doesn’t detract from the show’s fun, but a bit more behind-the-scenes production action would be nice (and easy). Look for this as the season progresses.

Overall the show is subtle and specific in its comedy and ruthless in its examination of TV culture. The jabs they take at the Hollywood system almost make it seem like the writers enjoy the insults they’re inflicting upon themselves. For the viewer who wants grown-up comedy without the schtick of network sitcoms, Episodes is an easy recommendation. Here’s hoping that Matt LeBlanc’s waning star power is enough to carry the show to a second season.

Episodes airs Sunday nights at 9:30 PM on Showtime.

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  1. Great show, loving it.

    Are you guys going to do a Shameless Pilot review? It’s awesome.

    • Yes, we’ve got somebody on it. Expect it in the next few days.

  2. I liked the premier of Episdoes, I was expecting more LeBlanc but i’m not really complaining. I did enjoy Shameless alot though

  3. if you guys like the actors playing the english couple you should check out green wing its a genius show they are part of the lead cast in that, i love Tamsin Greig she is so funny if you like her check out black books to another amazing show

    • Only just found this thread. Bigd, you are so right! Love Black Books too – great cameo from Simon Pegg as hellish passive-aggressive rival bookshop owner.

  4. You say he’s horribly miscast – is that the plot or you mean in the overall Episode’s show?

  5. OMG GREEN WING WAS HILARIOUS! GOT ALL EPS ON DVD!

    Alan Statham might well be one of the funniest characters ever created! (Behind Meredith Rodney McKay that is!)

    • have you seen spaced brian topp (mark heap – Alan Statham)is another of his great characters i recommend the clubbing episode =)

      • No I only seen a few epps of Spaced. Saw Episodes last night – is it supposed to be a comedy or what?

      • Classic. That episode and that spilled-water interlude in particular managed to sum up rave culture better and more succinctly than anything I’ve ever seen.

  6. Lol need to check that episode out!

    As for Episodes, it’s a massive letdown. It’s not funny!

    • It’s my favourite Spaced episode, Steve. Mark Heap can always be relied on for a suitably odd or plain creepy character, and he turned up repeatedly in the Chris Morris shows Braseye and Jam.

      I haven’t seen enough of Episodes to really get a feel for it, but Mangan, Greig and LeBlanc seem to work well together. Found this outtake from Green Wing I thought you’d appreciate if you haven’t seen it already. Tamsin Greig battling to keep a straight face with Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey on the Black Books extras is always fun to watch as well.

      • Brasseye, even.

      • MARK HEAP IS A MASSIVE LEGEND!!!

        Ahem, yeah thanks I got the DVD’s so I have seen that, it’s hilarious!

        I miss GW :(:(

  7. The blond that hated everything from the script sucked and was so unnecessary. She was too annoying. Otherwise I liked the show..

  8. Episode’s is the best comedy in have seen in years, the writing is exceptional the acting is great, I loved shameless but i think Episodes is even funnier. The scene where Merk is is siiting on the toilet discussing his deepest fears with carol, and you hear kerplunk, i split my gut laughing! Funniest scene ever! Very original, subtle acting, lovable characters, Funny as hell. I hope it gets picked up for many more season’s to come.

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