Episodes: Second instalment better but still stuttering
Review by Jack Foley
THE second episode of new BBC2 comedy Episodes was a marked improvement on the first but it still struggled to gain consistency.
Having got to the point where British writers Sean and Beverly (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) finally met Matt LeBlanc (playing a darker version of himself) it was great to finally be able to see whether the former Friends star could cut it.
Suffice to say, he stepped up to the plate and the episode actually came alive whenever he was on-screen.
But all too often it also over-cooked the jokes and tried to ring the awkwardness out of situations that didn’t really need any more effort applied to be so.
So, first the positives… LeBlanc is highly watchable as the alternative LeBlanc, displaying a calculated charm as the potentially ruthless manipulator trying to re-tailor Sean and Beverly’s show for his own skills set.
It was fascinating to see how he interplayed with Mangan and Greig, at first toying with their expectations of him, then playing towards their sympathies and egoes, before finally delivering his knockout blow to studio producer Merc (John Pankow).
The scenes between him and the wonderful Greig are particularly gratifying as, first, she warmed to him and then became appalled by him.
Alas, this latter point led to one of the episode’s problems… having LeBlanc’s character suddenly shift towards the juvenile humour that marked his Joey character in Friends. It felt a little unnecessary to have him be so tickled by a programme on children suffering from tourettes.
Likewise, Merc’s behaviour towards his blind wife at the dinner party he invited everyone to… a better, more rounded character would have him play a fiercely devoted husband whose home life is totally different from his work.
But no… as if to underline the point that Merc is an irredeemable asshole, he twice poked fun at his wife’s disability, while also being found to be having an affair with his assistant and doing whatever LeBlanc wanted him to do with regards to Sean and Beverly’s beloved show.
At such points, Episodes likeability plummets, as does its insistence on recycling bad jokes such as the recurring one involving Sean and Beverly’s gate-keeper.
So, while bettering the pilot, episode two still struggled to make the transition from curiosity value to must-see new show. I’m beginning to doubt whether it’ll ever get there despite the best efforts of its amiable central trio.