When I heard this episode was about Matt horrifying the studio by gaining weight, I couldn’t help but think back to Friends and imagine him in a cartoonish fatsuit all of a sudden. Sure, there’d been no indication up until now that Matt had any kind of eating problem, but the promo materials said he’s fat all of a sudden, so I worried we’d see him dancing around like Flashback Monica all of a sudden. Thankfully, Episodes stuck to its subtler tone and made little effort to change Matt’s appearance, aside from dressing him in slightly baggier clothes.
That was an admirable risk. The episode opens with Carol and Merc telling Sean and Beverly they’re worried about Matt’s weight gain. Sean never notices things like this, so he’s in the dark, but Beverly admits he might have put on a couple pounds (since they remain forever unsavvy in the business of show, they don’t get what the big problem is). Merc makes it clear: fat actors are okay, but not if they used to be skinny. It’s gotta be one or the other. the recent My World Of Flops entry on Fat Actress backs Merc up on that one.
But Matt basically looks the same. With the information that he’s getting chubby, I’m scrutinizing his belly and his chin way harder—but if he is different, it’s only barely so. My guess is that David Crane has some experience in dealing with this studio note, since if memory serves, Matthew Perry was at one point dangerously thin on Friends, before later becoming agreeably… fuller. The real triumph of this episode is how it skews the viewer’s perception more than anything else. It’s a nice way to satirize the obsessive analysis over weight gain prevalent on sites like TMZ (which declares Matt “LeBlob” in this episode).
That’s praise being laid on thick, since we’re told Matt definitely is guilty of some comfort eating, probably because of his reduced part on Pucks. While shooting, what the crew thinks is a crotch bulge turns out to be mountains of M&Ms in his pocket; after fighting with Jamie over Merc being a “really big pot calling the kettle black” (Matt doesn’t like being called a “kettle”), he watches black-and-white reels of young LeBlanc while eating a birthday cake straight from of its container.
In the end, it’s all a plot device to get Matt and Labia together, since she’s such an unending fountain of praise for him. That’s fine: Since Labia’s introduction earlier in the season, it’s been obvious there’s some larger plan for her. But as an episode, things got rather dull about 10 minutes in, since this was 90 percent about Matt’s weight gain and him being super-sensitive about it. Episodes is never heavily plot-driven, but this one isn’t even trying to be that funny. Mostly it was Matt bitching at Sean and Bev, then bitching at Jamie, then being alone and sad. Over the fact that he maybe gained 5 pounds.
Our only other plot was Beverly’s horrible date with Morning’s brother, Rob. For some reason I didn’t notice this in James Purefoy’s first appearance, but his American accent is atrocious. He sounds like a ambiguously ethnic Grand Theft Auto gangster from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen him do an American accent before (I mostly remember him from Rome) so I don’t know if this is a lingering problem with him, but it certainly didn’t work here. I also thought the show did a bad job on following through with Beverly’s assertion that she’s a terrible date, since most of the problems (her old PA showing up, Sean calling) weren’t her fault. But whatever, I’m sure they’ll manage to stumble into bed together somehow so we can have an appropriately chaotic finale. Which is not next week, it’s the week after. Gotta solve Matt’s weight crisis first, right?
- Merc names hilarious fat actors. “That fat guy in Laurel And Hardy?”
- Carol assures Beverly that they’re not delivering bad news. “We’d never cancel you in person.”