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July 23, 2014

'Episodes' Season 1, Episode 3 Recap

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 24th 2011 2:00AM


Matt LeBlanc and Stephen Mangan in 'Episodes' on Showtime['Episodes' - Season 1 Episode 3]

Tonight is when you see 'Episodes' start to make a turn. It's still not the show it has the potential to be (or the show it is by the end of the season... crap, I promised I wouldn't get ahead of things like that); the characters are still too broad for the most part, and we're still seeing Beverly Lincoln as a shrewish wife who hates everything about Hollywood.

But, in at least a couple of instances, we're starting to see some more human sides to Shaun and Matt. In fact, this episode went a long way in establishing the fact that the 'Episodes' version of Matt LeBlanc knows a hell of a lot more about the business of show than anyone ever thought he would. And it establishes Shaun as a guy who seeme to be both starstruck and pragmatic at the same time.

What I've been noticing about the show as it goes along is that I become less interested in the machinations of how an American network can royally screw up a British show. It was a fun joke for the first episode, maybe the first episode and a half. But it's officially gotten old.

Nothing against John Pankow, whose work I've loved since 'Mad About You,' but Merc is a character that becomes more cartoonish as the rest of the characters around him show their foibles and aspects of their personalities beyond just being either writer, actor or butt-kisser. This week we saw Merc as nothing but a manchild, who slurps fruit from the craft services table during a read-through, then tells the Lincolns how big of a hit they have when his real reaction is "Eh." That's not even mentioning the whole "nipple, nipple, nipple" thing with Carol. Ecch, talk about creepy.

The key to the episode was Matt and Shaun's trip to Vegas. That's where Matt could see that he has at least one of the Lincolns in his corner -- though he seems to be very casual with letting people see his "third arm," isn't he? "It's got everything short of an elbow" is how he described it -- but it's also where Shaun could see that there's a good guy under the Hollywood jerk. Sure, Shaun's all agog at the limited-edition Alpha Romeo, clubbing it with Linday Lohan and the Blood Rat clothing line. But he can see why Matt is a guy to be listened to on the 'Pucks!' set, and it came down to the differences between British TV and American TV.

"People need something to root for. When you're in the third season, up at midnight looking for stories, you're going to be banging your head against the wall, saying, 'How many times can this guy hit on the dyke?'" Matt may not be the most sensitive guy, but he knows that a lesbian love interest that works in a six-episode Brit season is a no-go in a 22-episode US season.

If the episode ended there, it would have been fun. But we got ten additional minutes of Beverly being a wet blanket, at once upset that Matt doesn't respect her, ever-so-slightly attracted to him in that Sam-Diane way, and amazed at what he's packing in his sweatpants. There has to be more to Beverly than this, because Tamsin Greig is too talented an actress to be playing the shrew every single week.

'Episodes' airs Sundays at 9:30PM ET on Showtime.

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/joelkeller.)

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