“I’ll tell you a secret,” says creative writer Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox) in Spike Jonze’s film, Adaptation. “The last act makes a film… You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.”
Such is the case with Episodes, a series that has meandered through awkward comedy, sometimes flat, obvious situations, to a final episode filled with moments of inspired brilliance. As I’ve said about other episodes, it’s been a bumpy ride, but this closing instalment of Episodes felt like a satisfying punchline to one of the longest set-ups in the history of comedy.
Seven episodes ago, writing couple Sean and Beverly arrived in LA with their luggage and the script for their UK hit sitcom, Lyman’s Boys, only to have both their dreams and their masterpiece gradually prodded into oblivion.
There’s an inherent problem with creating a sitcom (and I’m referring to Episodes here, not Lyman’s Boys, or its grim US adaptation, Pucks) in which everyone involved is rich and successful. Most of us will never be a famous actor or a writer working in Hollywood, so the situations the comedy presents are largely unfamiliar.
Episodes, then, has been at its strongest when it’s played off against the cultural differences between US and British sensibilities, or when Matt LeBlanc gamely sends up his ladies’ man screen persona.
This closing episode does both, with much of the show’s key moments centred around LeBlanc’s cinnamon-scented Joey bloke perfume that “didn’t sell for shit”, and his doltish inability to keep his tryst with Beverly quiet for more than a few seconds.
When the penny finally drops for Sean, he and LeBlanc engage in one of the most endearingly inept, inconsequential fistfights in recent memory. Shirts are pulled and bottles thrown, while a cactus is used as a spiky battering ram.
In a series often filled with titters and chortles rather than belly laughs, this was an unapologetically funny scene.
Meanwhile, Merc Lapidus (John Pankow, who’s been consistently excellent in every scene he’s been in) can’t figure out why all his pilots are so god awful, even though it’s his meddling that made them so appalling in the first place. While Pucks hasn’t yet been test screened, the oily producer is convinced it’s doomed to fail.
Their pilot all but deceased and their marriage rapidly heading the same way, Sean and Beverly engage in a tearful confrontation. LeBlanc, the orchestrator of their downfall, looks on, apparently unaware of the mess he’s caused.
But then, just when the entire series looks as though it’s going to end on a sour note, LeBlanc’s phone rings. It’s Merc. Pucks has been a hit with the test audience. “Loved it? They dry humped it!” he says. “Unpack your bags. We’ve got some telly to make!”
As a final episode, and a pay-off to all that’s come before, this was a great concluding 30 minutes. I don’t necessarily relish the thought of a second series. The comic potential of its Brits abroad situation appears to have been exhausted already. But this concluding chapter ended the series on a memorable high.
Read our review of episode 6 here.
You’ll find all the series reviews here.
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