Jake Peffer on the second season of the Matt LeBlanc comedy Episodes…
One would never think a show where former Friends star Matt LeBlanc plays a fictional version of himself could work. After a successful first season and a Best Actor Golden Globe, Episodes has become quite the surprise.
Episodes follows Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig who play Sean and Beverly, British writers who come to America to do an American version of their show Lyman’s Boys. Their world is turned upside down when TV executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) wants to make substantial changes to the show that they’ve worked on for so many years. One change in particular they aren’t fond of is that the network wants to cast Matt LeBlanc as the star of the show. From the get go Matt knows he was never a choice that Sean or Beverly had in mind, but he wants it to work because he likes them both. They form an unlikely friendship throughout the pre-production phase of the show that leads to Matt and Beverly getting a little too friendly.
Season two picks up right where the first ended. Sean and Beverly have separated after her sexual encounter with Matt, their new show Pucks! has been getting terrible reviews but surprisingly high ratings and relationships are all over the place on the set. After a while the ratings for Pucks! start to increasingly go down every week which leads the network to wonder if they should keep it on the air or not. Meanwhile, Merc’s blind wife Jamie starts up an affair with Matt in a way to get back at Merc for sleeping with Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins), one of his executives at the network. Elsewhere Sean hooks up with Morning (Mircea Monroe), Matt’s co-star on their show, who played a part in Beverly getting upset with Sean and eventually sleeping with Matt. All of these pratfalls lead up to a finale where all the secrets and emotions come out in a hilarious ending to Episodes second season.
What makes this show work you might ask. Well a lot of the credit has to go to Matt LeBlanc. Even though the version of himself he plays in the show is a bit of an ass, he can’t help but manage to be incredibly likable. The teaming up of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig adds a lot to the show as well. They have great chemistry together, even when their characters are separated. Their relationship feels real and when they break up you can tell that it really messes with both of their lives. Everyone else in the cast works well too from John Pankow to Kathleen Rose Perkins and Mircea Monroe.
This season featured some very funny episodes and story lines that made the season as a whole even more enjoyable. One episode has the network asking Matt if he can get any of the Friends stars to make a guest appearance on Pucks! and all he can manage to get is James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. There’s a story line about a stalker named Labia (pronounced exactly how it’s spelled) who Matt has had for most of his career that makes for some funny moments. When the show tries to work in some dramatic elements they also tend to work pretty well, like when Sean and Beverly almost get back together but he can’t do it because of what she did or when the network wants Matt to drop some pounds and he finds a website that makes fun of his weight gain.
There aren’t too many problems I have with this show but it certainly isn’t perfect. It’s not always laugh out loud funny but when most of the jokes hit they hit really well. The story line involving Merc having an affair with Carol is one that I don’t particularly like, mainly because of Carol’s actions. She clearly isn’t happy with being kept secret and Merc still doing things for his wife, and yet she stays with him and when she tries to leave she doesn’t. I suppose some relationships like that really do exist but it’s one of the weaker parts of the show for me. Other than that storylines tend to work pretty well and that’s what makes this the biggest surprise on TV in the last two years for me.
The writing and cast work really well here and are what makes the show so enjoyable. If you were a fan of Matt LeBlanc on Friends or even on the short-lived Joey then you will love Episodes.