I caught all seven episodes of "Episodes" on Showtime-On-Demand Sunday (with a break for the Masters in the afternoon). I'm a huge fan of David Crane's (and Martha Kauffman's) "Dream On," and at certain moments "Episodes" matched the zany goofiness of that classic HBO sitcom. Stephen Mangan and Matt LeBlanc's best-buddy act came across as a re-incarnation of a culturally-transplanted monogamous Martin Tupper and Gibby. The whole 'he showed me his c*ck'
bit with Tamsien Greig had me howling from laughter, as did almost every scene with John Pankow and Kathleen Ross Perkins (by far the prettiest of all the good-looking women on this show). Highlights: Matt 'upchoking' on Beverly's shoulder (Tamsien's frozen expression = gold
) and the un-PC treatment of Merc's wife's disability. Since Crane co-wrote every episode with Jeffrey Klarik and all seven were directed by the same person (James Griffiths) there is a consistency to the tone/laugh quota in "Episodes" that is only matched by the likes of "Nurse Jackie" (Buscemi seems to be directing every episode of that series). Being modeled after the British format (seven and out) works because the show ends on a high and leaves you wanting more.
It's not perfect though (seriously though, what show besides "Dexter" is perfect out of the gate?). I wish that, instead of getting the umpteen millionth 'fish out of water' Hollywood story that's been done to death ("Entourage" has pretty much cornered this genre on TV), "Episodes" had concentrated more on the way Sean and Beverly's English show is turned into the unrecognizable American version that is "Pucks!". It's a potentially untapped comedy gold mine (the scene in the pilot with the original English actor auditioning for the role hinted at this) but, throughout the seven episodes, the format changes are relegated to the background as "Episodes" focuses on the love triangle between Matt, Sean and Beverly (Morning doesn't count since Sean only 'wanks' to her, that's not true love
). God bless Mangan for trying, but he still comes across as a TV version of Hugh Grant doing the "Notting Hill" routine. Someone else mentioned that the TV executives come across as characters instead of people. Absolutely, and I'm OK with that as long as the show is funny but a little humanity (it's the reason Carol became my favorite amongst the network executives) would go a long way to make the laughs have more pathos. Merc Lapidus is brimming with potential to became more than a caricature of "Entourage's" Ari Gold if Crane & Co. decide not to fixate exclusively on his apparent lack of anything resembling morality. Show me that Merc is a (flawed) human being instead of a monster and it'll be easier for me to laugh both at him and alongside him.
Overall I love the show. I kept my expectations in check and, complete lack of originality aside, "Episodes" made me laugh and appreciate the freedom of cable premium cable comedies to be both naughty and a little bit smart. I'll be waiting next year to see how "Pucks!" does in its first rookie season, and the crazy that will bring on Sean and Bev's rocky marriage.