It can be safely said that ever since Friends’ success, the cast members have found it hard to get accepted as anything but the character they played on the sitcom. No matter what they do, Matt LeBlanc will always be Joey, and Jennifer Aniston will always be Rachel for the larger audience.
Keeping this in mind, creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik made the show Episodes where Matt LeBlanc played an exaggerated version of himself, who is now starting to be sick of those ‘How you doin’ impressions that are bombarded on him every time he meets a person who has seen Friends, and that is a huge population in itself.
What is Episodes all about?
Episodes starts with a British couple Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverley (Tamsin Greig ) Lincoln, who have won many BAFTAS for their British show Lyman’s Boys. An American network, led by Merc Lapidus (John Pankow), convinces them that they should make the show for a US audience, and so they fly to Los Angeles to make the adaptation titled Pucks.
As they get to LA, they learn the farce of American show business but don’t have the option to return unless they shoot the pilot episode. Their life gets even more complicated when they are pressured to hire Matt Le Blanc (playing a fictionalised and larger than life version of himself) for their show.
What works for Episodes?
Episodes is one of those shows where the humour doesn’t necessarily come out of its dialogue writing. Instead, we see bizarre situations unfold, whilst knowing that the result would be tragic but hilarious.
The show’s biggest strength lies in its perfect casting. Episodes acknowledges the stardom of Matt LeBlanc and then proceeds to make fun of it, at his expense. Matt, as an exaggerated version of his real-life persona, too plays to the gallery when everyone drools over his success but refuses to take him seriously. None of the shows that have cast him since Friends have utilised his charm and no one, not even the makers of Friends, utilised his acting chops the way Episodes did throughout its run. He even won a Golden Globe for his performance on the show.
In one of the best gags of the show, Matt is expected to convince one of his ‘Friends’ to appear on Pucks, but the only one he can manage to get aboard is Gunther. Matt struggling to find Jennifer Aniston’s latest phone number is played out so well here that you can’t help but laugh at his helplessness.
In Sean, Episodes has the character who is completely enamoured by the glamour of Hollywood, and in Beverley, they have someone who looks down upon the way Hollywood bigwigs live their life. The collapse of their marriage, as soon as they reach LA, speaks volumes about the transient state of things in Hollywood.
With characters like Merc, Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) and Morning (Mircea Monroe), Episodes makes sure that they create a web of dynamic personalities. Merc, for instance, is established as an arrogant man who convinces the Lincolns to move to the US, until it is later revealed that he never even watched their show. Carol, in many ways, is the sane one here and Morning is sort of a stand-in for the stereotypical American actress.
What does not work for Episodes?
Episodes premiered in 2011 and lasted for about five seasons with only 41 episodes. Although Episodes tries to efficiently juggle the personal dynamics of the main characters along with their work lives, it isn’t completely successful in that department.
While the trio of Matt, Sean and Beverley bounce off each other pretty well, characters like Morning and Merc sometimes seem lost. Merc’s story of two girlfriends and a blind wife starts well but begins getting on your nerves when it is still going on five seasons later.
While the humour works great throughout, one finds it hard to stick to the show due to the lack of a strong plot, or even a character who has the capacity to carry the show.
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If you like watching sharp comedies, Episodes is meant for you.
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