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Featured TV on DVD Review: Episodes: Season One

June 11th, 2012

Episodes is one of the latest shows on Showtime, and right out of the gate, the show started picking up some major nominations. Matt LeBlanc even won a Golden Globe for his performance on the show. Given the lack of success for the post-Friends shows, I wasn't too excited when I first heard about this show, but the relative success during Awards Season certainly raised expectations. Was this warranted? Or was my original instinct to keep expectations in check a better idea?

The Show

The series begins nearly at the end with Beverly Lincoln and Sean Lincoln getting into a real big fight, but it is a little disorienting as to why. The end result is her driving off to leave Los Angeles and head back to England. Unfortunately, in her anger, she forgets Americans drive on the wrong side of the road and she runs into Matt LeBlanc.

We then flash back seven weeks to how it all started. Beverly and Sean had just won yet another BAFTA for their hit show, Lyman’s Boys, a sitcom about an elite boys academy and the headmaster who runs it. They were preparing to leave the after party when they run into Merc Lapidus, the president of an American network. He wants their sitcom to be remade into an American sitcom, and he wants them to do it. Right away there are signs of trouble, as Sean's a lot more interested in doing the show than Beverly is. But as Merc points out, it shouldn't be a lot of work, because they already have the perfect scripts, while it will be a lot more money.

When they get to Los Angeles, things start to go a little off right away. They learn their lead actor from the original series, Julian Bullard, will have to audition for the role as the headmaster in the American remake. This comes as a shock to them, because they assumed their star would be coming with them. After all, Merc loved the show, so why change anything? That's when they learn from the executive that will be in charge of the show, Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins), that he never even saw it. He lied about loving it. It turns out he lied about a lot of things. Fortunately, Julian wows everyone at the audition... Everyone except Merc. He wants Julian to read again, but with an American accent. It doesn't go well. Now the network wants someone new to take over the role as the headmaster... Matt LeBlanc.

Beverly and Sean's reaction to Joey being cast as the headmaster to an elite boys academy is understandable, but Carol convinces them to at least have lunch with Matt LeBlanc. After all, he became a huge fan of the original show while shooting a movie in England and wants to be a part of the American remake. The meeting is a disaster. First of all, they find out he had never seen the show. He was never even been to England. Lied to again. They don't want him in the show, Matt doesn't want to be in the show, but Merc wants him in the show, so the network offers him enough money to take the part. Worse still for Beverly and Sean, he wants changes, major changes. He was cast less than a week and he got his part changed from a headmaster to the coach of a hockey team. They even renamed the show to Pucks. And it pretty much goes downhill from there.

However, Sean starts to like Hollywood. He even becomes friends with Matt. This puts a strain on his and Beverly's marriage. So not only is Hollywood killing their show, it might kill their marriage.

I think the appeal of Episodes depends heavily on the viewers love of Hollywood behind-the-scenes. A lot of the humor might be a little too much insider for a lot of people to get the jokes. And if you are not interested, I don't think there's not enough character based humor to compensate. Beverly and Sean's marriage troubles are a result of Hollywood, so it is too tied into the main plot to separate it. Additionally, this is a subject that has been done a lot very recently. Extras and Entourage spring to mind as two shows that cover a lot of the same ground. It has more in common with Extras, which is unfortunate, as Extras is a better show. The first season is only seven episodes long, and generally it takes a little while for a show to find its legs. It struggles to find the right balance between the more "British" and more "American" styles of humor, for lack of a better term. There's a repetitiveness to the humor and we see executives lie over and over again, creative changes made that damage the show happen consistently, etc. The season is more than halfway over before the show really gets going, and for some that might be too late.

The Extras

Sadly, there are no real extras on DVD. There are some text based biographies.

The Verdict

There is plenty to like about Episodes, but I'm not sure one could argue it truly reaches its potential. It has been renewed for another season, so we will see if it gets better, or if the premise had limited potential. Additionally, Season One is only seven episodes long and there are no extras on the DVD. The price-per-minute is too high for to purchase, but it's worth a rental.

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