Episodes episode 4 review

Episodes reaches its fourth show, but can it maintain its comedy momentum? Here’s our review…

Episodes

Awkward silences. Disbelieving glances. Sarcastic remarks. We’re up to episode four of the BBC’s glossy sitcom, Episodes, and already its style and situations are beginning to feel familiar.

Los Angeles may be its backdrop, but Episodes is, in essence, a sitcom based around two or three people bickering. Nebbish Sean and prickly wife Beverly bicker over attractive women and alterations to their script. Prickly Beverly and swaggering, arrogant actor Matt LeBlanc snipe and peck at one another every time they meet, an undercurrent of barely repressed attraction threatening to erupt at any moment.

As the production of the increasingly tawdry sitcom within a sitcom, Pucks!, rumbles on, lead actor Matt LeBlanc loses custody of his children and spends most of this week’s episode in a drunken, self-pitying nadir. Forced to chaperone the inebriated LeBlanc from an LA bar and back to the safety of his house, Beverly and Sean’s sympathies are stretched to breaking point.

In terms of plot, that’s basically it. The show boils down to a series of disconnected scenes thereafter, most of which drag on for too long. There’s an awkward scene in a bar, two or three awkward scenes in a car, an awkward scene on the steps of LeBlanc’s ex-wife’s house, one in Sean and Beverly’s kitchen, and so on.

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There’s the hope throughout that these various awkward situations are being stacked up for one final, satisfying pay-off (as was the case in episode two), but this instalment ultimately amounts to little more than a sequence of sketches revolving around themes like celebrity, drunkenness and the vacuity of Hollywood.

On a side note, the show’s parping, repetitive theme tune and tiptoeing incidental music is really starting to get on my nerves.

There are moments, however, where Episodes shows glimmers of its earlier promise. The brief glimpses of Beverly and Sean’s bowdlerized sitcom are endearingly horrible, and it’s hard not to see why LeBlanc signed up for such an unsympathetic role. He may be an unreconstructed boor, but he nevertheless gets most of the best lines.

Occasional glimmers aside, the gap between US and UK comic sensibilities appears to be widening in this week’s instalment. Episodes has neither the three-jokes-per-minute slickness of an American comedy, nor the sharp observation of a British show like Extras, which appears to be the show’s prime inspiration.

Episodes‘ enduring strength is the quality of its cast. All three lead actors, Mangan, Greig and Le Blanc, are likeable and acquit themselves well, but all the likeability in the world can’t make up for a flat script or uneven pacing, and sadly, this week’s episode is the least satisfying and cohesive yet.

Read our review of episode 3 here.

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