Perhaps it’s my desire to become a sitcom writer (without any of the talent or vocabulary to do so) that makes Episodes appeal to me. It certainly isn’t the humour. For all its failings as a comedy I actually quite enjoy Episodes as a show, but I don’t suppose that’s exactly the kind of feedback David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik would have been hoping for.
This makes reviewing it a somewhat more complicated task for The Comedy Journal. For any other site I would just be joining the endless list of critics with the consensus that “it’s alright”. You certainly can’t fault any performances; Matt LeBlanc has won a Golden Globe and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his work. The premise is a good one; albeit slightly similar to Extras once Andy Millman has his show, When the Whistle Blows commissioned. The characters are also pretty good; Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig’s chemistry is tried and tested, and Matt LeBlanc is, well, playing himself. Literally.
But Episodes simply doesn’t deliver the comedy promised in all the build up.
Series two picks up where the first had left us, and we join the cast in the days before the premiere of Pucks!, the show written by Magnan and Greig’s characters, Sean and Beverly. The two have now separated after Beverly’s fling with Matt, but things seem rather amicable, and they’re putting the show before anything else. With all the backroom drama, and a string of appalling reviews, Pucks! still defies all the signs and makes a promising start, as series two looks to be the story of the peaks and troughs of the American ratings system.
Getting jerked off while you’re watching yourself on TV? Actors work their whole lives for that.
The separated lead characters certainly give Episodes a new dynamic and is a clever move to diversify the show from the first series. The problem though is the basic level of the humour, which is distinctly less of a break from the past. This hasn’t been helped by the instant continuation, as this means there’s no time to make up any new back-stories or add any characters, and how long can we really watch a guy mouthing to his mistress behind his blind wife’s back? To add to the storyline, said blind wife decided to give Matt LeBlanc a handjob during the premiere. Cue a joke about a stain on Matt’s trousers? No problem!
It wouldn’t be so bad if these weren’t the bits intended to add the comedy to a quite dramatic main storyline.
So whilst we carry on with the same plot, sadly, we carry on with the same style and quality of humour, and Episodes once again falls short of what both the actors and performances deserve.