Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Brief Episode

Before we forget, let's say goodbye to Episodes, which just aired its finale.  A minor pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

The premise was simple.  Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, who co-starred in the British show Green Wing), an English husband-and-wife writing team, reluctantly come to Hollywood to have their successful sitcom, Lyman's Boys, adapted for American television.  Bit by bit, as it goes through the process, all originality and comedy is drained from the show.

Lyman's Boys, about a British boys school, is changed to Pucks!, about a boys hockey team.  Perhaps the greatest indignity is the lead character, once portrayed as a wise, kindly, middle-aged teacher, is to be played by Matt LeBlanc (Joey on Friends, if you've forgotten).  LeBlanc played that part, of course, though his version of himself was much nastier and amoral than in real life (I hope).

Throughout the series LeBlanc and the Lincolns have a love/hate relationship, as their show biz fortunes go up and down.

Episodes was created by David Crane--who co-created Friends--and Jeffrey Klarik.  The writing tended toward conventional sitcom--you'd expect that from Crane, I suppose--but, generally speaking, well done conventional sitcom.

Mangan and Greig were professionals, creating sympathetic character who knew how to put over punchlines.  But it was LeBlanc who added something extra, making the show more than just generic Hollywood self-mockery.

There was also good supporting work from actors such as John Pankow, Daisy Haggard and especially Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol, head of programming (at least at the start), who becomes Beverly's best friend.

Episodes really only needed the one season to say what it wanted to say. And in Britain, that might have been it. This is America, however, and even on a premium cable channel like Showtime, they kept it going and bled it dry--which is what the show suggests American TV is about--running for five seasons.

But based on Episodes, there's something to be said for the American model.  Yeah, the show kept going after it made its point, but it was fun all the way through.


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