Episodes, TV review: Matt LeBlanc needs a little more help from his friends

 

Will Dean
Thursday 15 May 2014 09:59
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Jokers in the pack: Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan (centre) and Matt LeBlanc in ‘Episodes’
Jokers in the pack: Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan (centre) and Matt LeBlanc in ‘Episodes’

I should perhaps admit that I share my gig as a one-day-a-week TV reviewer with other roles at The Independent. These including manning the Martini trolley every other Wednesday and polishing the contents of the office trophy cabinet. So, it's for those reasons, rather than professional negligence that I've not been able to keep up with Episodes (BBC2). Sorry.

I'd turned off because it didn't really do it for me. In it, husband-and-wife writing team the Lincolns (Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan) take their hit British comedy to the US only for it to get destroyed by what (the real-life) Greig calls "death by encouragement". Their show is quickly Hollywoodised with lead Richard Griffiths switched for a grotesque of Matt LeBlanc, played by Matt LeBlanc.

Two full seasons later, Episodes has had something of a critical renaissance and a couple of Emmy/Golden Globe nominations. I'm just not sure what's going on.

Regardless, despite the quality cast and the awards, I'm still not quite convinced. Episodes' portrayal of a TV network feels slightly too airy, and not that funny, nor dramatic. LeBlanc is great, though. At one point, he tries to wriggle out of a speeding ticket by tolerating being called Joey, and of course setting up the punchline. The cops ask him for a picture. Matt says "sure" in the hope that it'll help him wriggle free... the picture is a mugshot.

Mangan's dynamic with LeBlanc is fun, too. In one scene, "Matt" is asking Mangan's Sean for advice in writing an email to his wife. When he gets it – "It's got to be personal, from the heart" – this is his pristine response: "Exactly, I can't write that shit." It's not bad, but sorry, Matt, we're probably best with those interminable Friends repeats...

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