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'Episodes' Co-Creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik on Matt LeBlanc Playing Himself and More

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 28th 2011 2:00PM
'Episodes'There's nothing like interviewing someone who's sitting in a bathroom.

That's exactly what happened when I spoke to Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, the co-creators of the new Showtime series 'Episodes,' a couple of weeks ago. They had just come off their TCA press tour session, and they were speaking to me from a private room at the tour's hotel. It inspired Klarik to describe why a phone in the bathroom isn't as luxurious a notion as it once was, thanks to cell phones.

"You know, sometimes I'll be talking to my mother, she lives in Florida, and in the middle, I'll hear like tinkling and I'll realize she's talking to me while she's peeing. And I'm like 'Oh gee, Ma!'"

After the fun, we talked about the series, where Tamsin Greig and Stephen Marcum play a British couple whose hit U.K. series is being adapted for a U.S. network, and the show is getting lost in translation. Among the adaptations the network has "suggested"? Matt LeBlanc as the star of the show. We talked about whether LeBlanc was reluctant to play himself, if the executives depicted on the show are accurate, and which show of theirs they wish was still on the air.

TV Squad: When you guys got together to do this, did you have any trepidation making fun of the people whom you've worked for?
(chuckles) I never thought of it as making fun of them. I felt like we were really telling the truth about them. And then I thought, they should be aware of how they treat people.
Crane: We're sort of stepping back from the experience and going, you know what, it's crazy. And if they can't recognize how funny the whole journey is, then that's unfortunate. I mean, that said, I'll also say that, and this is how Jeffrey and I are very much like our characters Sean and Beverly, I'm more like Sean so I have a certain amount of anxiety about burning the bridges ...
Klarik: ... and then I'm carrying like a whole, big, like gallon jug of gasoline, because I don't intend to go back over the bridge again. And that's a very nice place to be, where it's like yeah, I'm not afraid of you anymore, because you can't hurt me.
Crane: But I think at the end of the day, we were just hoping that everyone thinks it's funny.

Matt has mentioned that he was, at first, not very comfortable playing himself on the show. Did you guys have to convince him?
Crane: By the end of lunch, he was on board, so...
Klarik: It was between the sandwich and the pie that he sort of came aboard. It wasn't like he needed to really reflect about it. I think there was probably an initial thing about oh "Gee, I've seen this before."
Crane: Yeah, and I think he really, all he asked us from the beginning was to clarify how we were going to have a character that was called Matt LeBlanc, and ...
Klarik: ... how truthful would it be to who he is ...
Crane: ... and also how much depth the character's going to have. Because obviously, when we initially present it, it's, he's the punch line. And I think he needed to know that we were going to go beyond that and give the character dimension and depth. And we assured him we would, and that was it. By the time the check came, he was with us.

There are some things that he does that are pretty reprehensible, in a lot of ways. Do you have faith in the viewers that they'll know that that is Matt LeBlanc the character, not Matt LeBlanc the person?
Crane: I think actually, I mean, we do have faith in the viewers to know that it's a character, but beyond that, I think that's part of the fun, is you watch it and you wonder, well I know this is a character in a show, but I wonder how much he's actually like that. And the fact that, you know, that question hangs in the air is actually part of what's kind of fun about it.

What's fun about writing for an actor who is skewering his image like that?
Klarik: We really, honest to God, other than the fact that he was named Matt LeBlanc, we wrote it as if we were writing any other character. There was no sense of, oh this will be a nice twist, you know? We actually went out of way in lots of instances to separate the two. I mean, Matt has a daughter and he's divorced, and this guy ...
Crane: ... we gave him a much more contentious relationship with his ex-wife, and he's got these two sons, and this Matt is kind of alcoholic (chuckles). What was great about Matt was, we were sort of nervous as we were writing it. We would finish each episode and we'd send it to him, and each time, we'd sort of hold our breath.
Klarik: Especially the divorce thing, losing custody of the kids and stuff. Even though it isn't his story, knowing that he would be afraid that people would assume that was true ... But he came on board rather quickly.

By the way, whom is network head Merc (played by John Pankow) modeled after? Or maybe not whom in particular, but ...
Crane: (pretentiously) He's entirely fictitious.
Klarik: (laughs) But does he seem familiar to you?
Crane: Obviously you draw on what you know. But in our minds, we were writing a character. Yeah, it wasn't, you know, we weren't leaving clues.
Klarik: Well, it seems funny, but I gotta say, it's not exaggerated. Those guys are those guys. You know, I'm sure a lot of people watch and go oh, that's ridiculous. We've had those discussions with these guys, you know, where they tell you one thing and they mean another.
Crane: There's very little in this that we consider over the top.

The way the season progresses, it does feel like you guys got a little bit more to the interpersonal relationships and giving the character some more depth. Did you guys find that you had the room to make that exploration?
Actually, that was always our intent. And when we sold it to the BBC, their initial response was "Oh, it's another behind the scenes TV show." And we said no, it's really a relationship show. This could take place anywhere, in any office setting. This is about these two people on their journey.
Crane: Yeah, and the triangle of them with Matt. That was always what it was about, and the plan was always to, as it progresses, just to go deeper and deeper into the relationship and the characters.

How did you like working a classic British six-episode season?
Crane: Loved it. I mean, to have the luxury of writing all the episodes in advance, which A, allows you to really look at your season and make sure you're happy with how it's going, as opposed to what you have to do here when you're doing 22 episodes and you're racing against production, and by the end of the season, you're just throwing tracks in front of the moving train. Here, there's a luxury of distance.

What has Showtime told you about the prospects of a second season?
Crane: We know they're happy with the first season. And beyond that, we're just all waiting to see what happens next.

Of the shows the two of you have produced, which do you think -- had the networks given it enough of a chance -- would have succeeded?
Klarik: Oh I believe 'The Class' could have succeeded. It was starting to find its voice after about six, seven episodes. We knew what we were doing. The numbers were improving. I think, had they stuck with it, we would have been their 'Big Bang.'
Crane: That would be the one I'd pick. Because we certainly can't say, "Oh, if only they'd given 'Friends' a chance ..." But yeah, I think, we really believed in 'The Class.' It had a great cast, and it took us a little while to figure out the formula, and we feel like just when we did, it went away.

And that's why we now have 'Episodes.'
Crane: It's hardly like oh, this is our big revenge comedy. Because really, it's about the characters. And that's what we keep coming back to.

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

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I find it desperately boring and I am English...My take: http://j.mp/gCBjtK

January 31 2011 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I actually really enjoy this show. But I kind of like English shows from time to time, and no I'm not 75 years old. The writing is very clever, and Matt LeBlanc has a great range. He goes from being the same old"Joey" to being a real person as the character "Matt LeBlanc". I'm not laughing out loud at every second of the show, but it's very smart, and the actors plays their parts perfectly.

Gotta say I was a fan of "The Class". I really was dissapointed when the show was cancelled. I remember it beginning to gel and a lot of the characters were becoming very well developed when it ended. Out of the mess that was the show "Joey" Andrea Anders definetly made a career from that. First she and Matt LeBlanc get together, which is great for them personally I guess, but then came "The Class" which then led to "Better Off Ted" and now "Mr. Sunshine" with Matthew Perry. "Joey" was crap but Andrea Anders probably is pretty thankful that the show was on the air, even if most FRIENDS fans wish Joey stayed in New York.

January 29 2011 at 1:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stephen Mangan plays Sean...

January 28 2011 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zedcon1's comment

Fixed. Thanks.

January 28 2011 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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