Episode Tite: "Episode 4"
Writers: David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik
Director: James Griffiths
Previously on "Episodes":
Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig), a husband and wife writing team were lured to Hollywood by duplicitous TV executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow). Although they were hired to adapt their hit British TV series "Lyman’s Boys;" which was quickly bastardized into "Pucks," a hockey themed sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc of "Friends" fame. Matt and Beverly got off on the wrong foot and established an adversarial relationship.
However, Sean found himself accompanying Matt on an impromptu trip to Las Vegas where they bonded together and became friends, much to the annoyance of Beverly. She also noted that Matt was no longer including her in discussions on the set and gave all of his deference to her husband.
On the set of "Pucks," the pilot episode seems to be going well even if the comedy is flatter than… well, I’m not going to say it. Anyway, Beverly finally discovers the real age of Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe), the lead actress on her sitcom. And Beverly is very dismayed when she learns that Morning is actually older than she is but she still looks like she’s in her ’20s. Beverly also seems jealous when Morning embraces Sean on the set, landing him in hot water with her. Matt approaches them in a suit and tells them that he has to leave for his children’s custody hearing and the pair wish him luck.
That night, as the Lincolns prepare for bed, Matt calls Sean and asks him to pick him up from a bar in Santa Clarita, where he is drunk out of his mind after losing custody of his kids. As Sean points out that Matt is his friend and must have been desperate to ask him for help, Beverly volunteers to go with him for the long drive. Once they arrive at the bar, Matt balks at Beverly’s presence and asks Sean why he brought "Betsy." After more snipping, he explains that a paparazzi photographer with a grudge is waiting for him outside the bar to catch him driving home drunk.
The Lincolns attempt to distract the photographer while Matt sneaks into the back of their car, but he interrupts them to ask which car is theirs, allowing the photographer to catch Matt once again. On the way back to Los Angeles, Matt explains that he lost custody for having sex with the nanny who was supposed to be watching his kids at the time. As he rails against the injustice of the court’s decision, he tricks the Lincolns into taking him to his ex-wife’s home. Once there, he pleads to see his kids and his ex-wife relents. With the Lincolns and his ex, Matt watches his sleeping children and realizes what a terrible mistake he made.
On the car ride back, Beverly feels a great deal of sympathy for Matt and invites him to stay with them for the night. He returns the gesture by thanking her profusely, calling her by her actual name… and by barfing on her shoulder. They get Matt to sleep in a guest room, but the next morning, the Lincolns find a strange woman who Matt called over for some quick sex. Matt also resumes his mocking attitude towards Beverly and calls her "Betsy" once more.
This may be the best episode of "Episodes" yet. And the reason is Matt LeBlanc.
LeBlanc has essentially been playing an asshole version of himself. But in this episode, he not only portrayed himself in a negative light, he also managed to be sympathetic. The scene at his ex-wife’s home was unexpectedly affecting when Matt came to terms with what he did and stopped blaming others for his mistake. Even his reconciliation with Beverly was well done and felt like a real moment of character growth.
Of course it couldn’t last.
However, it definitely feels like a step backwards. I know that a lot of the premise for this series relies on the conflict between Beverly and Matt. But the writers could have found other ways to bring them back up against each other them rather than simply falling back into the same behavior patterns. It’s disappointing for the characters and also a troubling sign for the show, which doesn’t seem to have much mileage beyond the central concept of fish out of water writers surviving in Hollywood’s crazy atmosphere.
I enjoyed Tamsin Greig’s performance as Beverly for the first time since the pilot because she wasn’t acting like an incredible shrew for the entire episode. There were some predictable moments when she showed her jealously towards Morning and her obsession with age. But her gesture to Matt was also a great moment for her and gave her some much needed dimension on top of her perpetually annoyed persona. It’s always a good thing when characters manage to surprise the audience while remaining true to themselves. I like that.
This was also the first episode that really broke the format of the series and stayed away from most of the network shenanigans of Merc and Carol. I hadn’t realized how annoyed I was getting with those characters until they were gone. And it was a much needed break. By just focusing on the three leads, "Episodes" may have finally found its footing as a comedy series.
But I’m not sure how much life this show has. It’s funny that one of the recurring themes of the last two episodes is how to make a comedy series work over several years if there’s nowhere new to go. We already know that by episode 7, Sean and Beverly will be on the outs with each other and Beverly will get into a head on car accident with Matt. That seems like a pretty definitive conclusion that we’re heading towards, without any more surprises along the way.
If Matt and Beverly had truly reconciled, I would have a little more faith in the longevity of the premise. I still want to see where the series goes, but I don’t know if the destination will be worth the trip.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.