Episode Tite: "Episode 2"
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 behind a hit British TV series "Lyman’s Boys" were lured to Hollywood for an American adaptation of their show. Despite promises from TV executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) about creative control, Merc’s minions rejected a brilliant audition by Julian Bullard (Richard Griffiths) as "too British" despite the fact that he originated the lead character in "Lyman’s Boys." During his second audition with an American accent, Julian badly floundered and cost himself the role.
Slowly but surely, the network interference and general craziness of Los Angeles began to get to the Lincolns. And to top everything off, Merc’s number two woman, Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins) told them that the network had found the perfect actor for their show… Matt LeBlanc.
Moments after they receive the news about Matt’s interest in their show, the Lincolns are agape in silent shock while the network stooges literally lean towards the speaker phone to glean their response. Carol completely misses the incredulousness in their voices when they ask if "Joey from ‘Friends’" is really the best actor for the refined head master of an elite boy’s school. But Carol tells them that a meeting with Matt is only a courtesy. Reluctantly, they take the meeting at a nearby restaurant. When Matt finally shows up, he can’t quite give the Lincolns his full attention and constantly talks on his phone and texts while they speak to him.
Despite Carol’s promise that Matt is a big fan of their original show, he has no idea who they are. The meeting goes very awkwardly, with neither side really liking the other. However, the network executives tell Matt that the Lincolns loved him and convince him to sign on for the show in exchange for a "truck load of money." When the Lincolns learn that Matt has been given the part without even consulting them, they are flabbergasted. Apparently, the meeting was a courtesy for Matt, but not for them. While stewing over their dilemma, they receive an invitation to attend a dinner party at Merc’s house.
At the dinner, the Lincolns encounter Matt again and he is now very excited to be working with them. He tells them that he caught up with their series and loved it, before flattering both Sean and Beverly. Matt also seems surprisingly intelligent and self aware about both his limitations as an actor and as a husband. He admits to Beverly that he ruined his marriage by having an affair, but shows her that he loves his children very much. Meanwhile, Sean learns that Carol once had an affair with Merc, who is still married to his blind wife, Jaime. During Jamie’s moving story of charity, Merc openly mocks his wife at the dinner table knowing that she can’t see what he’s doing.
Just when things start going the Lincolns’ way, Matt offends Beverly by saying that he found a documentary on children with tourette’s syndrome hilarious and she publicly berates him. When Sean tries to defuse the situation, Matt implies that he is whipped by his wife and enrages her further. To top it off, Matt goes behind their backs and gets Merc to agree to make major changes to the character and the script to better suit Matt. When Beverly accuses Merc of never having seen the show, he denies that and it becomes even more awkward because she said "seen" in front of Jamie.
The Lincolns verbally fight on the way back to their rented home, finally taking their frustrations out on each other. When Wallace (Lou Hirsch) the security guard forgets them again, Beverly launches into a foul mouth tirade, Sean explains it as "tourettes" before Wallace quickly lets them in.
After only a brief cameo in the previous episode, Matt LeBlanc finally came to the forefront here and he did a great job of reminding us just how likable he can be. LeBlanc doesn’t have a great acting range, but he also showed that he’s not afraid to portray himself as a shallow jerk when the occasion calls for it. There were a few moments when it seemed like Matt would actually be a co-protagonist with the Lincolns and work to keep the series from becoming an embarrassment. During his second encounter with Sean and Beverly, Matt came off as thoughtful and intelligent… all the way up until his tasteless jokes about children with tourette’s syndrome.
Even though LeBlanc is playing an exaggerated version of himself, he seems a bit more genuine than the two lead characters. Sean and Beverly are fast becoming one note in their response to the craziness around them. Beverly in particular is so shrill, that any sympathy I had for her plight goes away very quickly. The only moment between the Lincolns that felt real was when Sean blamed Beverly’s antagonistic behavior towards Matt as part of the reason he went behind their backs. It’s the first major crack in their relationship, which we know may be heading towards a breakup later in the series.
Despite Sean and Beverly’s shortcomings as characters, they do capture some funny reactions to the reprehensible behavior in Hollywood. The first scene with Matt in the restaurant was very amusing, as was their horror while Merc openly mocked his blind wife. Surprisingly, there’s actually more going on with Carol and Merc than first appeared and it was an interesting development for Carol in particular. She’s been the network’s main mouthpiece, which kind of dehumanized her into a caricature. Having an affair with her boss doesn’t make her a good person, but her embarrassment hinted that she may actually regret what she did.
Overall, I’m still enjoying "Episodes," but I’m worried that Sean and Beverly aren’t strong enough characters to carry the rest of the narrative. I actually want to see more of Matt LeBlanc and the more intelligent side of his personality that he demonstrated here. This really is his comeback show and the more he demonstrates that he can pull off unexpected depth will only help him go on find roles where he isn’t playing himself.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.