(Ed's note: Gabriella joins Team FG to take on this new comedy series. Do say hello to her via the comments or on Twitter.
Words: Gabriella Shimeld-Fenn
'Episodes' (2011) 'Episode 1'
SYNOPSIS: Sean and Beverly Lincoln are the creators of an a BAFTA award winning British sitcom, and move to Los Angeles to remake their series for an American audience, with disastrous results.
A co-production with the American network Showtime, this seven-part series was written by the highly acclaimed writing duo David Crane ('Friends') and Jeffrey Klarik ('The Class'), so it naturally arrived on our screens with some expectation behind it. As well as the star power of Matt LeBlanc (playing a heightened version of himself), there is British interest in the form of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, playing Sean and Beverly respectively - a partnership familiar to fans of surreal Channel 4 comedy 'Green Wing'.
Mangan and Greig’s previous history goes some way to explain the easy chemistry they have together on screen, and their characters’ marriage feels very real from the off, which is a good thing as this is basically what sustains this introductory episode and saves it from becoming too much of a formulaic establishment of characters and situation.
Their fish-out-of-water scenario is obviously where a lot of the humour comes from, although there is an audition scene full of enough painfully hilarious second-hand embarrassment to rival 'The Office', and plenty of acerbic one-liners from Greig as the more suspicious and hostile Bev.
Mangan’s Sean always tries to see the best in every situation and is much more dazzled by the Hollywood lifestyle of gated communities and huge white-stucco mansions (even if half the marble columns are made of polystyrene).
Interestingly, the episode opens with Bev apparently storming out on Sean after accusing him of infidelity, and having a car crash with Matt LeBlanc, before we flash back to seven weeks earlier and the story of how they are both lured to L.A in the first place. This clever mixing up of the timelines leaves the viewer much more invested in continuing to watch the series, especially considering that this is LeBlanc’s sole appearance in this first episode, and though the metaphor is somewhat heavy-handed you do wonder what his crashing into Sean and Beverley’s lives will entail.
British viewers will also enjoy a brief cameo by Ben Miller, and Richard Griffiths’ performance as the old British theatre stalwart ousted in favour of LeBlanc as the lead in the American version of Sean and Beverley’s show.
In conclusion: not a particularly spectacular series-opener, but sets up enough premise and intrigue to feel worth investing in continuing to watch the rest of the episodes.
Watch 'Episode 1' until 22:59, Monday 28 Feb 2011. UK users only.