Episodes season 2 episode 1
The show that rehabilitated Matt LeBlanc returns for a second run. But is anyone watching?
Air date (UK): 11 May, BBC Two, 10pm
Look on the cover of this week's Radio Times, and there's Matt LeBlanc, Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig in bed together under a stars and stripes duvet, in an unforgivably unimaginative metaphor for the premise of Episodes. It's an optimistic gesture, given the sitcom's lack of mainstream appeal (just 1.06 million for its last episode on BBC Two), but it's heartening that a series like this can get an easy recommission and a muscular marketing campaign behind it.
That said, like Pucks! - the sitcom with the sitcom - it's hardly likely the media would care much if not for Matt LeBlanc. Even the Radio Times' coverline - "Just good friends?" - is still evoking Joey to help the sell. Which is weird, cos it didn't work for Joey.
Still, for us 1.06 million who still give a shit, it's a good thing that, despite the rather mighty odds, it's back. The last episode saw Sean (Stephen Mangan) storming out of his and Beverly's super-swish LA home after she admitted getting it on with LeBlanc. With episode one of this series, Sean's still pissed and obstensibly separated from Beverly (Tamsin Greig). And - what do you know - despite a drubbing from the crits, Pucks! is a success, with overnights to dream for. Though as busty TV veteran, Morning Randolph tells Sean ratings can still nosedive after the first episode and they could hypothetically be off the air after six.
Now there's a proper show-within-a-show, the sitcom that Episodes is most starting to resemble is Extras. But while it was a perpetual stretch to think any controller would have okayed When The Whistle Blows (what kind of gripe did Gervais have when the BBC were allowing him to do Extras the way he wanted?), Pucks! is exactly the kind of limp, committee-forged network shitcom you can see if you look past the Veeps and the Communitys In the real world, though, Sean and Bev would have been booted off long ago.
But there they are, still munching on corporate cock and moaning about the taste. It's only the innate likeability of Mangan and Greig that make Sean and Bev anywhere near sympathetic characters. It's actually LeBlanc who comes over as the easiest to love, even when he has lines like, "Getting jerked off while you watch yourself on TV - actors work their whole lives for this!"
It was easy to scoff at LeBlanc last year, when signing on to play Matt LeBlanc seemed like the only other career choice when Joey wasn't on TV. But ironically, playing Matt LeBlanc shows off quite how versatile Matt LeBlanc really is.
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