I love the concept of Showtime and BBC2’s Episodes. As someone who likes both British and American television, and will gladly watch both versions when one of the ‘across the pond’ shows is remade here, a tongue in cheek look at a remake is clever. I’m not sure about the execution, though. After only viewing the first episode (of seven), I felt like the whole story barely got started.
The episode began when Beverly (Tamsin Grieg) left her husband, Sean (Stephen Mangan) after catching him wanking to another woman. Beverly then almost crashes her car into Matt LeBlanc (Matt LeBlanc, as a pseudo version of himself). The sequence is extended, taking up a good portion of the episode, but fairly unconnected to the rest, which takes place seven weeks earlier. I’m sure that the scene is going to be the end of the season, but it should have been much shorter, or left out entirely. It was too long to be a simple hook, and didn’t explain anything at all.
Most of the episode concerned Bev and Sean coming to America to remake their popular British show, Lyman’s Boys. They are wooed into a deal by Merc Lapidus (John Pankow, Mad About You), a shady Hollywood exec who just tells them what they want to hear. He hasn’t actually watched their show, though he raves about it, which does provide one funny line after they find out that tidbit. He also presents the show to them as a done deal that they will control, and when they arrive, they discover otherwise. In fact, they don’t learn the truth from Merc, who has little time for them, but from Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who is really going to be working with them on a regular basis instead.
The first big obstacle, and apparently the main story of the first episode, though it got only a small portion of the screen time, is that Merc won’t sign Julian Bullard (the legendary Richard Griffiths) to reprise his role as the star of Lyman’s Boys. According to Bev and Sean, Julian is the show, but Merc, again, only pretending he’d watched, insists Julian fly all the way out to L.A. to audition for the part, and then proclaims him ‘too English’. When Julian tries re-reading with an American accent, even he knows it’s a disaster. Instead, Carol suggests Matt LeBlanc for the role, which the couple are less than thrilled about. I couldn’t even tell if they knew who he was.
And that’s really all we got. There was barely any Matt in the episode, even though this has been billed largely as his vehicle. A confused couple shows up in America and doesn’t get what they expect. That’s how I felt as a viewer, confused and my expectations not met. I’m not saying this is a bad show, but I don’t know that it’s a good one. I’m more left with, ‘That’s it?’ than a solid opinion. I feel like more of the series must be viewed before I can render judgment. I like Bev, Sean, Carol, and even Merc as characters, but I don’t feel I’ve even met Matt yet.
There is another cast member as well, Head of Comedy, Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe). Perhaps because she was not yet fleshed out either, I felt like she was a one-joke comic relief player. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s done well, and I saw no reason to complain as of yet.
I guess my biggest criticism is that I expect a pilot to set up the series for me, introduce me to the characters, let me know what to expect. As a pilot, “Episode 1” failed in most of that regard. It sort of felt like it assumed the viewer had prior knowledge, and just took off, not at a fast pace, but at an unexplained one. I’m interested enough to check out next week’s offering, and hopefully I will have a better understanding then.
Episodes airs Sunday nights at 9:30 p.m. on Showtime.