Is it possible to work together with someone after they’ve betrayed you in the worst way possible? That’s the premise behind the second season of Showtime’s “Episodes,” which took some unexpected turns and drew laughs for being aware of its cliches.
“Episodes” followed Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) as they took their popular hit British television show and brought it to the United States. What they got instead was a gung ho television executive named Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) who had very poor impulse control. It was hard to tell what Merc’s true agenda was because he often didn’t know himself. Under Merc’s watch, Sean and Beverly’s show was renamed “Pucks” and a poorly cast actor named Matt LeBlanc was tapped to play lead. Much to Sean and Beverly’s surprise, the show was quickly added into the network’s schedule and was given a lot of support. What they didn’t count on was that their marriage might not survive the trials and tribulations of living in Hollywood. Sean decided to walk away from his marriage after Beverly impulsively slept with Matt. He also stated that their professional relationship would be over if “Pucks” ever got cancelled. Beverly turned to her friend/Merc’s lover Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) for advice to win Sean back. Will Beverly miss her chance as Sean grows closer to Matt’s costar Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe)?
Hopefully, the answer to that question won’t be answered too soon this season, because the tension between Greig and Mangan has managed to make their dynamic much more interesting. The first season had Sean and Beverly fighting to not let Hollywood change them, which was good in the beginning. This season will have both Sean and Beverly willing to do anything to stay, even if they don’t entirely like their show. Greig’s Beverly is still skeptical of how “Pucks” got on the air, but she’s transformed into a heartbroken woman over her impulsive betrayal that wrecked her marriage. Greig’s most memorable scene came early in the first episode when she told Perkins’ Carol that she would do anything to win Sean back and how she had backed out at the last minute. Greig had a look that was a cross between sadness and fear as she ended up becoming her own worst enemy by the end of the premiere.
Mangan had the more challenging task of portraying Sean as the victim and still make him likable at the same time, which he managed to succeed by keeping his composure while cameras rolled. Mangan’s most memorable scene came when he bluntly told LeBlanc that he had no interest in ever forgiving him and would only talk about work related subjects with him for now on. What made that scene hilarious was the rapport between LeBlanc and Mangan that was still friendly even after Matt’s betrayal. Both actors worked hard to not upstage each other, which made viewers not entirely sure who they should root for. Viewers can tell that Matt and Sean still share a connection, even though Sean wants nothing to do with him.
Luckily, the “Episodes” version of LeBlanc has a whole season to earn Sean’s undeserved forgiveness. The huge reason why viewers will care about Sean and Matt becoming friends again is because of LeBlanc’s efforts to make this version of himself likable even when he does some heinous things. The biggest example of that in the premiere came when Merc’s wife made an obvious pass at Matt during a “Pucks” screening. LeBlanc’s look of shock and awe over such a questionable action proved that he needed some moral guidance before Pankow’s wonderfully over-the-top Merc caught on. LeBlanc’s efforts to poke holes at himself have paid off greatly with a Golden Globe win and a chance to reunite with one of his former “Friends” costars. Let’s hope that one of them would return his calls sooner rather than later.
“Episodes” premieres on July 1st and airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on Showtime. Check out a free preview of the first episode now on sho.com.
Verdict: LeBlanc did a superb job making fun of Hollywood and himself in the process.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)