Episodes Sure Got Better in the End, Didn't It?

By Louis Peitzman

Feb 22, 2011

When Episodes premiered on Showtime last month, I wasn’t exactly a vocal supporter. “I didn’t enjoy Episodes’ first episode even a little,” I wrote. “Actually, I kind of hated it.” But as I said at the time, it’s unfair to judge a series based solely on its pilot, so I decided to stick with the seven-episode season and give it a chance. After all, plenty of critics I admire seemed to adore it.

Here’s where I say, “You were right; I was wrong.” But that’s not entirely true. I stand by my assessment of the Episodes pilot, and I’d argue that the second episode was almost as underwhelming. Something kept me tuning in, though: by Episode 3, I was a begrudging fan, and Episode 4 had me hooked. Many series take time finding their voice, so I can’t exactly fault Episodes there. Still, for a new show with only seven half-hour installments, it really should have hit the ground running.

What was it that transformed Episodes from a humorless drag to a sharp, must-see series? Matt LeBlanc deserves a lot of the credit, playing a less-than-flattering—but still charming!—version of himself. He added a much needed sense of irony to the show, turning it from half-assed comedy into legitimate satire. I’ve always been a fan of LeBlanc, though his Joey persona can wear thin—try sitting through Friends spin-off Joey if you don’t believe me. In Episodes, LeBlanc had Joey’s charisma, confidence, and one-track mind without the dopey schtick.

British actors Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig were also great, especially when they were given better material to work with. After a pilot of mindless banter, Episodes gave us a reason to care about these people: Once I had a sense of who Sean and Beverly were, I wanted their show to work. More to the point, I wanted their marriage to work. While Beverly’s indiscretion with Matt was telegraphed early on, I was still shocked when it happened—and devastated by Sean’s reaction.

“Devastated” sounds like a strong emotional response to a half-hour sitcom, but I’d argue that Episodes was at its best when blending comedy and drama. The fight between Sean and Matt was slapstick hilarity, but Sean’s ultimate confrontation with Beverly was heartwrenching. Episodes began as a lighthearted farce, and that didn’t work for me. It was only when the show fleshed out its characters that it truly succeeded. It now feels more distinctly Showtime, following genre-bending series like Weeds, United States of Tara, and Nurse Jackie.

I do hope Episodes returns for a second season, and that it continues to improve. There are more storylines to explore, more characters to delve into, more chances to mock the TV industry so many of us love and hate. It’s got my attention, and I’m emotionally invested. Now don’t let this Lyman’s Boys-quality series devolve into Pucks.

  • Comments (34)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • turretgunner Dec 30, 2013

    I could not disagree with you more. Beverly cheating on Sean, and with his best friend no less, completely ruined this show for me. After that, nothing about this show seemed humorous anymore, especially if Matt or Beverly were in the scene. They were just a**holes trying to be funny.

  • SuperInni Apr 15, 2011

    i watched them all and liked it. but - i so miss matt leblanc that i'd watch him in anything

  • TVwatcher247 Feb 26, 2011

    It may have found its niche audience but I gave up three episodes in. If one must struggle through more than that to end up with a good series it's just not worth it.

  • RPGold1 Feb 26, 2011

    As mentioned, we found ourselves hanging in and watching subsequent episodes of Episodes until instalment four. Then, we couldn't get enough. What kept us interested at first were Matt LeBlanc's small bits. Then...
    Hope there's a season 2.

  • staind47 Feb 24, 2011

    I left this show halfway into the second episode. I'll take your word for it that it got good, but I can't see myself going back to watch from where I left off.

  • Yohan88 Feb 24, 2011

    It got better indeed, and I'd tune in for a second season, but the first 3 episodes are stll rated 'awefull' for me. LeBlanc made the show after all, and that was what I was hoping for.

  • pete_petrelli Feb 24, 2011

    I knew you guys would come around after the first review.. I wanted to see this since i read about this project here at tv.com 2 years ago.. And i did like a lot, 1st episode started good (but kinda slow), in the 2nd episode i was hooked and laughing my ass off watching Matt LeBlanc assassinate Lymans Boys..

    Personally i think this is THE funny show on showtime, weeds its not funny at all, tara i dont care for it and nurse jackie is great but more a drama-comedy than a comedy-drama. Episodes is a great must see series, hope everyone tune it in so we get to see many seasons of this jewel!

    BTW, LeBlanc is a genious, he made everyone believe he can get every woman in the world just by asking them how you doing on Friends, now he made us all believe he has a giant cock on episodes... THAT MAN IS A GOD!! Or at least a Hollywood Genious!! And i DO want that lousy ringtone!!!

  • Zoey4 Feb 23, 2011

    It's the first new series in a very very long time that I'm now counting to my absolute favourite shows on TV!
    I love it!

  • kravitzfan12 Feb 23, 2011

    I totally agree! I really disliked the pilot, and the second episode was underwhelming as well, but it really started to pick up and ended on really high (albeit predictable) note! I'm really excited and hoping for a second season.

  • JutasineePhon Feb 23, 2011

    News Bulletin: The premise of this show is: "What if Larry David were a young good looking actor with a sex addiction and no conscience." Obviously, that is Joey's inspiration and willingness to make himself look so awful.

  • See More Comments (24)