Like a stopped clock telling the right time twice a day, once in a while my half-baked guesses and predictions come true. And while last week’s series premiere of David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik’s sitcom left me rather cold, it nevertheless left me with the feeling that, having spent half an hour setting up the show’s premise, Episodes would improve considerably in the weeks that followed.
As predicted, part two of Episodes is a huge improvement on the slightly awkward opening instalment, and it’s a shame the BBC didn’t show both episodes back to back.
Against their better judgement, husband and wife writing duo, Sean and Beverly, have sold the rights to their BAFTA-winning UK sitcom to smooth-talking Hollywood executive, Merc Lapidus. Arriving in Los Angeles, the couple watch in horror as their writing is slowly picked apart and rearranged before their eyes, and episode one concluded with the revelation that the wildly unsuitable Matt LeBlanc would be starring as an erudite headmaster.
In episode two, Sean and Beverly’s anxieties appear, at first, to be unfounded. They meet LeBlanc at a dinner party hosted by Lapidus and are stunned to find that, far from the crass boor they were expecting, the Friends actor is charming and full of enthusiasm for their comedy, and Beverly’s smitten. “Oh, he’s totally wrong, but he has such nice hair,” she remarks.
And then things start to go horribly wrong. While Sean’s busy admiring Merc Lapidus’ extensive art collection, Matt and Beverly’s initial friendship begins to disintegrate. Beverly is horrified by Matt’s admission that he found amusement in a documentary about sufferers of Tourette syndrome, and his suggestion that, instead of playing a verbose headmaster in Beverly’s sitcom, he could play a hockey coach, leads to outright animosity.
More shrewd and back-biting than he first appears, LeBlanc later has a quiet word with Lapidus, resulting in an executive decision to change the actor’s role from headmaster to hockey teacher.
An episode full of genuinely funny moments, LeBlanc is brilliant value, playing a brilliantly skewed, obnoxious version of himself. Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig are great, too, as the bickering couple whose work crumbles all around them, and Greig’s scenes with LeBlanc crackle with energy.
In fact, this entire episode belongs to Greig, and her concluding, swear-filled rant ends the show on a genuine high.
The first part of Episodes established a great cast and writing pedigree, while this one, thankfully, introduced some genuinely, outrageously funny moments. Having found its feet, I only hope the series can continue to maintain a similarly high standard.
Read our review of the series premiere here.
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