'Episodes' offers behind-the-scenes TV laughs
Tamsin Grieg as Beverly Lincoln, Matt LeBlanc as himself, and Stephen Mangan as Sean Lincoln in "Episodes."
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TV shows with an entertainment industry backdrop often fail in the ratings, so thank goodness "Episodes" is on Showtime where ratings are of less concern. A low-key comedy of manners, "Episodes" (9:30 tonight) follows the trials and tribulations of Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig), a married couple who produced the hit British TV comedy "Lyman's Boys" and get recruited by American TV network executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) to re-create the show for an American TV network, a la "The Office."
Starring: Matt LeBlanc.
Beverly is hesitant but Sean, seduced by the money a Hollywood series would bring, quickly agrees, and soon the pair are fighting with a security guard to gain access to their temporary home in a Los Angeles gated community. And there are more fights to come.
Sean and Beverly learn that lies are the currency of choice in Hollywood and promises are only as long-lasting as the promise-breaker deems necessary. By the end of the premiere their first choice for the lead role in the American adaptation of their series about a boarding school headmaster -- the actor (Richard Griffiths) who originated the role in England -- is deemed "too English" and network executives have a new idea.
"For the erudite, verbally dexterous headmaster for an elite boys' academy, you're suggesting... 'Joey'?" Sean asks, incredulous of the thought of Matt LeBlanc ("Friends") as the star of their show. But he is and LeBlanc is also the star of "Episodes," playing a fictionalized version of himself.
"I need this to be a hit or at least something you can't make fun of on a talk show," LeBlanc says, no doubt an intended reference to his ill-fated "Friends" spin-off, "Joey."
LeBlanc and Beverly butt heads almost instantly, while LeBlanc and Shawn hit it off. It's a credit to "Episodes" that while LeBlanc is the brand-name star, the series keeps Beverly and Shawn as its center. They're the fish out of water in Hollywood and offer an entry point for viewers at home who may not be aware of network organizational structure, but they know a talentless executive when she's on screen. My favorite punching bag is a blond comedy development executive (British actress Daisy Haggard) whose face is perpetually scrunched up as if she constantly smells an unpleasant odor.
This seven-episode series, written by David Crane ("Friends," "The Class") and Jeffrey Klarik ("Mad About You," "The Class"), doesn't offer many new ideas about the evils of the TV business -- a lot of the ground covered here was previously mined by the underrated 1999-2001 Showtime series "Beggars & Choosers" -- but it's still fun to join in the mocking of Hollywood, a big, juicy target that "Episodes" hits with ease.
First Published January 9, 2011 12:00 am