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

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.

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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.
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i watched them all and liked it. but - i so miss matt leblanc that i'd watch him in anything
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!!!
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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!
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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.
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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.
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Sorry gave up on the show after the 3rd episode and I don't see myself coming back to it. If what you're saying is true then it's too bad the show started so crappy.
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For the record, if you judged The West Wing solely on it;s pilot you would still conclude that it was a sensational drama. Pilots should be good. They;re the reason a show gets commissioned.
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I like it, but I can't believe they only made 7 episodes! It's so bloody typical of a British TV programme! I mean, what the puck! You would have thought that making it a US/UK joint venture would have meant it ended up longer, but no! If it comes back then I demand at least 12. I agree that it took a while to care about the characters and I wasn't sure there was another season to be got out of the premise until the end of the last episode, but the Sean/Matt attack cracked it. I was laughing my head off and crying a little even (with laughter). And then the Sean heartbreaker was lovely work. Then the ringtone. Awesome.
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My wife totally gave up on it, but I saw something, I think it was Sean and Beverly being so likable, so I stayed with it and was not disappointed...
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Pretty much the same way I feel about the show, even if I never got around to liking Beverly for some reason.
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There were two genuine comedy shows on TV (It's always sunny in Philadelphia and Curb your enthusiasm) and now we have Episodes
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I thought the last episode was very predicable. I saw that coming from about 5 minutes in, sorry.

But on the whole a good watch (from ep 3 on wards).
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Fully agree! A bit surprised during the first episode....now loving it!

And...great great actors really!!!
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i loved it since the pilot
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The first two episodes were indeed awful. But afterwards it got better and the last two was really good. For me Tamsin Greig is a amazing on the show, fantastic actor.
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i love the show, Episodes and Community became my favorite shows on TV now. Matt is amazing in this show, the humor is so unique and cruel at some point. especially merc lepides. he is my favorite weirdo in the show.
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I never really hated or disliked any episode. The pilot and second episode were probably weakest, but I still found them decent. But I agree, it got better as the episodes went on.
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I love watching Stephen Mangan with Mat Le Blanc but Tamsin Greig isnt working in this series. Too whinny and cold. I adored Stephen and her in Green Wing but this is one time I could do without her. I;d rather they gave Stephen a more ballsy role in the series. I hoep if series 2 happens they show him gettign some revenge on Matt and Tamsin's character.
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Watched the first episode and didn't like it so I stopped watching it. But after reading this I think I'll give it a second chance
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It's Stephen Mangan that makes the show watchable. I constantly find myself hoping he leaves his unbearable wife, Tamsin Greig. When his wife cheats on him with Joey, it only reinforced that feeling. I hope they go down that road. LeBlanc sleeping with his wife made for a funny fight scene between Joey and Mangan, but the scenes with Tamsin Greig were gross, difficult to watch, and completely unrealistic.
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You can never completely judge a series based upon the pilot since many times the pilot starts out well but the series is garbage. But it's equally unfair to judge a series based upon the finale. Although it is fair to judge a series based upon the average of episodes. If the average episode wasn't good I wouldn't expect later episodes to get better. Episodes doesn't deserve a second season.
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Completely agree with this review, stcuk with the series knowing there was only going to be seven episodes and the finale was the best of the series. Hope a second season (if there is one!) can match the quality of the end of the series.
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Still wont make me go through the pain of watching this horrible show.
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I think this is dead on. Episodes is developing into a great show, where especially Matt is doing a great job in playing himself.
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I kind of liked this show. I never really got excited before watching a new episode or anything, not even the finale, but it was a fun way to pass the time..
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basing a series on 1 episode is completely ridiculous... as a rule i only base a series on 1 full season and believe that is the only way to do it.... ONE EPISODE! tells you nothing.. if you only base a series on 1 episode you are basically cheating yourself of a potentially great experience/journey. 1 season at least should be the basis of which to go on.
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With the way people are now a days you can't have a shi**y pilot and expect people to tune in again. I was one of those people who hated the first ep enough to not tune in again, which is rare for me. I almost always give shows at least 3 eps. Most recently I found myself asking why I was watching Rubicon but as the show progressed I was truly happy I hadn't given up on it, even if the show is canceled now. Even so I feel no regret in giving up on Episodes, much like I did with Treme.
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stephen mangan rules... american audiences definitely need to be more familiar with him. check out the gem "green wing" or "free agents" both short lived brilliant comedies.
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Sucking at first and then finding its feet is what killed Dollhouse.
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