At this point, it’s clear that Episodes is going to have to do some serious stalling if it’s going to drag this season over nine episodes. The fortunes of Pucks have pretty much reached their limit—everyone knows they’re working on a shitty show, and that’s that. Aside from seeing Sean and Beverly bat around euphemisms for penis in their office, there’s nothing about the TV-making process this week.
So at this point we have a workplace sitcom where all the continuing plotlines are about who’s sleeping with whom. Since that’s what forms the spine of most of David Crane’s efforts over the years, it’s not too surprising that it’s the crux of Episodes. Beverly gets word of Sean’s fling with Morning, and she’s understandably sad, and he’s a bit sad too, and both actors do a good job with their relatively thin material, but it’s not quite enough to get you rooting for their marriage, which you have to guess will get saved in the end.
Meanwhile, Matt is carrying on with Merc’s wife Jamie, and the two seems to be forming some sort of emotional connection, although there’s still plenty of room for a truckload of blind jokes every episode. Since Matt being a well-meaning jerk is the only thing that connects on this show, I get why they’re presenting us with a relationship that’s along those lines. But since Matt’s very shallow, and Jamie’s nice but boring, there’s not a lot of crackle when they’re on screen together, no matter how filthy things get.
More fun is Matt’s interactions with Sean and Beverly, since they have a fun, weary dynamic going at this point. Beverly’s seen all Matt has to offer and doesn’t even have the energy to be annoyed at him; Sean can’t help but be interested, both out of perverse fascination and general boredom. Sure, it’s not great that the best scenes on a show are of characters talking about shit that we just saw happen, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get.
LeBlanc also had the single best scene of the episode with his reminiscence about having sex with an old lady who claimed to be an Oscar-winning grande dame after attending Orson Welles’ funeral as a young man. It didn’t have me rolling on the floor or anything, but Matt’s wistfulness tickled. He’s not playing this role as dumb as Joey—he’s a little self-aware, but not enough that the ridiculousness of his life gets to him. His deadpan reaction to Morning’s question about the Friends cast attending his funeral was pretty great too.
What’s really not connecting is the satirical material. Everything’s way too broad and the targets feel stale, and the obviously small budget doesn’t help for scenes like the funeral of Merc’s dad, which was apparently a huge Hollywood event flooded with movers and shakers, but looked like a couple dozen people under a tent. Entourage wasn’t funny or clever either, but at least they had enough money to throw around and actually shot in Hollywood (I believe this show is filmed in England).
The joke that everyone acts very callous and engages in one-upmanship around a funeral is unoriginal enough that I was shocked they hadn’t used it in the first season. Merc’s dad dies and everyone starts jockeying to give him the best gift basket and treating the service like it’s a hot ticket. Sean and Beverly look on in traditional English horror while Matt complains about missing prime catering slots. Carol moans about over-eating during periods of mourning and Merc ends up interrupting his own funeral to try and poach Matthew Broderick. Again—when Entourage did your joke several years ago and it wasn’t funny then, you’re in trouble.
Another gag that’s completely spent is Sean and Beverly’s disaffected assistant, whose valley-girl accent is very suspect (I’m beginning to think she’s a Brit since the whole thing is so nasal and lazily stereotypical). We get it, she’s bored and spoiled and doesn’t like doing work. That can’t be the only thing Crane and Klarik have to say about the process of making a TV show—that the assistants can be vacuous. I guess we have six more episodes to find out.
Even the name-dropping in this episode seemed dated: Jerry Bruckheimer, and power couple David E. Kelley and Michelle Pfeiffer.
I also laughed at Matt’s impression of a deaf girl saying dirty talk. I’m not proud that I laughed, but it was kinda funny.
“I learned a valuable lesson that day.” “How to get rid of crabs?” “Yep. Come in handy more than once.”