Review: Episodes

Episodes, the 2011 joint US/UK venture, is back for a second season.

Last year, we saw married British sitcom writers Shaun (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) attempt to transplant their popular British show to the US, facing the micromanaging whims of TV boss Merc (John Pankow) at every turn. The last straw came when the studio shoehorned Joey from Friends, Matt LeBlanc playing a (hopefully exaggerated) version of himself, onto the show as the lead.

The opening episode of series two takes place four months after Beverly’s fling with Matt. Beverly and Shaun are now living apart and trying to salvage a working relationship following the commissioning of an entire series of their sitcom.

It’s pretty much the second series of Extras, complete with a sitcom within a sitcom, but with only one celebrity guest and the additional twist of seeing two downtrodden Brits try to find their feet in Hollywood.

The show’s synthetic look is like a catalogue come to life and drives home the show’s somewhat overplayed message about the shallow, image-obsessed, money-driven world of Hollywood. It’s a theme that’s been done before, but the show is charming enough to make it work. Much like the first series, Episodes continues to benefit from its well-written central love triangle believably brought to life by Mangan, Greig and LeBlanc, and remains gently amusing, if not hilarious, throughout. Beverly’s accumulated frustration that worked so well in series one has only been increased by her failing marriage, and constant irritation at Matt.

LeBlanc shows that he’s more than just Joey, and should be commended for his approach to the comedy, much of which is at his own expense, and for fans of amusing facial expressions there’s a brief but welcome return from Myra (Daisy Haggard), who was a comedy highlight of series one.

Altogether, Episodes is a likeable, funny addition to Friday night scheduling.

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