January 11, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Episodes”


EPISODES:  Sunday 10:30PM on Showtime

EPISODES, written from beginning to end by David Crane (a creator of Friends) and fellow sitcom vet Jeffrey Klarik, improved considerably in its second season, adding some shading to its original cartoon about a married pair of relative babes-in-the-woods British writer/producers corrupted by the comfort and thorough superficiality of Hollywood.  Its claim to fame is the likable presence of Matt LeBlanc as “Matt LeBlanc,” a presumably bizarro picture of the former Friends star as a dumb but crafty middle-aged Lothario, and in Season 2, it found room to make the other characters more than mere pieces in its isn’t-Hollywood-crass parable.

Tomorrow night’s Season 3 premiere, directed by Iain B. MacDonald, picks up the morning after last season’s finale, a benefit dinner that resulted in our heroes Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean (Stephen Mangan) getting back together after a season-long estrangement that started after Beverly slept with Matt, who’s become something of a pal to Sean.  It also saw network executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow), the show’s stand-in for all that is rapacious and mindless about the American network system, find out that Matt has been sleeping with his blind wife Jamie (Genevieve O’Reilly), lose his job–which was offered to his second-in-command and lover Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins)–and physically attack Matt, dislocating his arm.  Merc ended up dumped by wife, mistress and network, about as bad as it gets for a head of Programming.  (And then it all showed up on YouTube.)

Episodes‘s first season was mostly about the beastly way those imbecilic Yanks ruined Beverly and Sean’s charming little UK comedy, and it was tiresome, because it insisted on pretending to be naive about a system everyone involved with Episodes knew a lot better than they were letting on.  Accepting that the business is what it is and giving the characters room to breathe improved the series, and Season 3 seems as though it will continue down that road.  There’s very little about the show-within-the-show at all in the season premiere, concentrating instead on Beverly and Sean’s somewhat uneasy post-infidelity (on both sides) reunion and just how long it will take before the network screws Carol out of Merc’s job (not long).  Merc is on hand only briefly and pathetically, trying to break into Matt’s house, while Matt’s continued misbehavior starts up a storyline that will carry into future episodes.

The whole “real person playing a fictional version of him/herself” isn’t the novelty it used to be, and there’s nothing very extraordinary about Episodes, but it’s quite enjoyable in its mild way.  Greig, Mangan and of course LeBlanc handle their dialogue deftly, and O’Reilly has become an increasingly strong presence, thanks especially to Carol’s oddball friendship with Beverly.  While there aren’t any insights into the TV business here that one couldn’t glean from some online reading, picking up the cynical lowdown and lingo this way is more fun.  The show is mostly a prestige and awards play for Showtime–ratings last season were lucky to reach 0.2 with just a few hundred thousand viewers, although perhaps it will prove more compatible with House of Lies this season (last time its lead-in was Weeds).  Ironically, this meta-sitcom has found itself as being… just another sitcom.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."