Episodes: The Complete First & Second Seasons

Episodes: The Complete First & Second Seasons
6
Including both the first and second seasons of David Crane (Friends, Joey) and Jeffrey Klarik's refined Brits-meet-American-buffoons comedy in one package was a wise move. Episodes (in which the makers of a hit British television series are seduced into personally shepherding the American version of their award-winning baby) is a slow starter. Once it hits its filthy, snide stride, however, it's funny and compelling enough to lure you in and keep those eyeballs glued to the misadventures of a couple of witty outsiders tempted by Hollywood excess and put through the corporate TV wringer. Tasmin Greig (Shaun of the Dead) and Stephen Mangan (Dirk Gently) play the happily married scribes who swiftly find their pet project about a dry-witted headmaster of a boarding school who's infatuated with a lesbian librarian turned into a low-brow comedy about a hockey coach hitting on a coy sexpot (still a librarian though!) once the studio forces Matt LeBlanc (playing himself) into the lead role. The first couple of episodes fall prey to rather predictable and slight humour that contrasts the facile network head, his sycophantic stooges and Matt LeBlanc's womanizing meathead reputation with the frustration of the helpless writers, Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Greig and Mangan). But once the obvious setup gags are out of the way, Episodes begins to find the wounded humanity of personalities warped by the callous, fickle star system of L.A. LeBlanc, despite his success, is a lonely man who yearns for a modicum of respect beyond the draw of his Friends heyday. He's also a charming, manipulative jackass who takes Sean into his confidence, much to the dismay of Beverly, who wants nothing more, at first, than to see the show fail so that she and her husband can return to the security of London. With all the distrust, deceit and lure of the grandiose lifestyle that come with financial success, Episodes gets a little soapy, but is self-knowing, salacious and honest enough to fairly consistently transmute potential groaners into comedic gold. Unfortunately, the DVD has no special features to speak of (cast bios in this day and age, really?). I'm sure there must have been enough flubs and alternate line readings to at least warrant an amusing gag reel. Even without extra content icing, Episodes will appeal to those fond of entertainment biz insider humour. (Paramount)