Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Last night saw the seventh and final episode of Episodes, and it was a very strange experience watching it all the way through each of the seven weeks.

It was the tale of Bev and Sean, a husband and wife writing team invited to Hollywood to script an American version of their hit UK comedy series. The star in their pilot episode is Matt LeBlanc, playing himself. Bev was played by Tamsin Greig, of Black Books and Green Wing and Stephen Mangan, of Green Wing and Dirk Gently played Sean.

The series constantly teetered on the brink of smugness, with Tamsin Greig massively overplaying her middle class 'what is happening to me?' persona. Her habit of stretching every other sentence to emphasise seemingly uncalled for exasperation became annoying after episode one. At one point last night she even did a bizarre female version of the Frank Spencer oohhh what have I done Betty body twist and face pull. Very odd.

Stephen Mangan became equally annoying very early on with his constant expression of little boy lost in a great big world he doesn't really understand or belong in. How does somebody so disconnected from the real world manage to write anything with any credibility?

Matt le Blanc saved the day in just about every episode with an understated parody of himself as a Hollywood star, looking for his first vehicle after the hit series Friends. His performance was warm and highly amusing, not to say ironic.

As ever the writers seem to be to blame. It was a typical bland Islington tale of two middle class writers going to the States to find highly caricatured actors and studio executives. The humour was juvenile in the extreme, including jokes about the size of Matt LeBlanc's private parts. If the writers thought it was risque it wasn't, it brought an unnecessary element of sleaze in reality.

It was so caricatured and lazily stereotypical that if it had been set in Bolly rather than Hollywood it would have been condemned as racist. The writers have apparently never seen witty and intelligent US sitcoms such as Frazier, Rosanne or Cheers to name but three, and instead chose to lazily portray US TV as aimed at the educationally subnormal.

It was actually quite enjoyable you might be surprised to hear. A bit like a Chinese meal, the anticipation was there, it was quite pleasant during, then afterwards you wondered why? Typically smug BBC television I suppose.

The end showed the dumbed down pilot episode a great success, leaving the door open for another series, which I think I'll be giving a miss.

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