Considering the people behind Showtime's new Hollywood-skewering series Episodes are TV biz veterans -- it was created by David Crane, who also created Friends, and Jeffrey Klarik, who worked on Mad About You and Dream On -- I expected some Extras-esque insights here. Some genuine and refreshing roasting of the television process, particularly regarding the adaptation of British television for American audiences. What I didn't expect were few and far-between laughs, a bunch of caricatures in supporting roles, two of the most irritating protagonists I have ever seen, and for the presence of Matt LeBlanc to be the only thing worth watching about it, which is what I got. Truly, it was a shocking experience watching this pilot.
The show follows British couple Sean and Beverly Lincoln, who are lured to Hollywood after their prep school comedy series starts winning awards overseas and American networks start seeing dollar signs in adapting it, as they often do. When the Lincolns get here, however, they are shocked -- shocked! -- that they have to change their show for the new format. The lead has to be handsome here, and a name (that's where LeBlanc comes in), and he's now a hockey coach, not the scholarly and seasoned headmaster he was in the original series. They find this ludicrous and outrageous (and not just because it puts the original actor out of work, which was understandably sad for them), which is a problem for a couple reasons.
Firstly, British series are almost always changed when they are adapted for a foreign audience -- everyone knows that -- and quite often those changes are necessary. Don't agree to an adaptation without accepting that. American people are very different from English people, and that has to be accounted for. Anglophiles hardly make a dent in the American TV-watching population, even the ones who like smart, genuinely great shows, and you have to make these shows into something the audience on whole can relate to. Second, you can't get brilliant material out of a sports storyline? Ever hear of Friday Night Lights? The League? Sports Night? Which reminds me -- American television is not the shitfest it used to be. Everything we make is not uniformly bad and everything England makes is not disproportionately sparkling anymore, yet that dated ratio is the very backbone of this show's premise. And lastly, I thought they came here mostly for the money and fame? Why should they care about the quality of the American version? I agree that remakes and adaptations are overdone and often failures, but in every other aspect it just seemed like this show was largely preaching to a choir that doesn't exist anymore.
But there was some good. Matt LeBlanc wasn't in the premiere episode much, but I've seen the second ep, and he's actually kind of great and his lines are funny. Sadly, that bit with the doorman at the Lincolns' gated community pretending not to remember them continues on (seriously, that gag could not have been less funny, and that woman is so overly quirky, affected and grating that she might be my new Todd Dempsey), as does everything with Jon Pankow's loutish network exec Merc, who is so thinly drawn and knee-jerk that Seth MacFarlane could have written him. But the dim Valley Girl at the network continues to be funny, if pretty cartoonish, and by the end of episode two, she had kind of grown on me. I just wish this show were smarter and a lot funnier -- in a post-Extras world, this just isn't nearly good enough.
Also, don't name a show something that's a pain in the ass to Google. It's just annoying for everyone.
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