“Matt LeBlanc’s new comedy” are four words that one would not, normally, expect to follow with another three words “is really funny” – and that, in someways, is the meta-premice of Episodes – the BBC / Showtime comedy which see’s LeBlanc playing a version of himself cast into the lead role of a British comedy that’s being remade in America.
British husband-and-wife comedy Tv show writers Sean and Beverly Lincoln, played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig (who both were also in Green Wing (which I really must re-visit, by the way), win yet another BAFTA for their successful British comedy Lyman’s Boys and are persuaded to move to Hollywood to remake teh series for an American audience – the US Network starts to make so many changes that the show becomes virtually unrecognizable – most notably, of course, the casting of Matt LeBlanc in teh lead role, which was played in the UK by Julian Bullard (played by Richard Griffiths)
What’s smart about this comedy is that LeBlanc plays a version of himself that many TV-snobs would believe to be a true depiction – boorishly wealthy and unaware of anything resembling reality. And it’s within this self-awareness that the gold lies in this comedy. Further, the fact that LeBlanc’s role is not so smack-central in the script-writing – the other characters are where the real laughs are., adds to its real appeal. John Pankow’s depiction of the network boss Merc Lapidus takes every pre-conceived Hollywood cliche of network-boss and pretty much trumps it; while Kathleen Perkin’s portray of Merc’s PA (and, obviously bit-on-the-side) is wonderfully awkward and acceptance-seeking. And, I think, my favorite character is Myra Licht the totally humorless and equally clueless Head of Comedy at the network played with wonderful understatement by Daisy Haggard, who has developed a fantastically weird speech impediment for the character.
Episodes creates gloriously awkward scenarios akin to The Office with it’s weighty pregnant and uncomfortable pauses – lifting the game above the mainstream to something much more worth-while in the American sitcom landscape.
Episodes starts on NZ’s TV One on Thursday night
Watch this extra-meta PREVIEW (not a trailer) where LeBlanc auditions for the role of LeBlanc…