After watching the seven episodes in the first season of Episodes, the viewer has some idea of what to expect from this Showtime/BBC series going forward. I liked Season One (see why it earned a respectable A- here), and I liked the show’s sophomore season even more.
As the season opens, Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig) are living apart after Beverly’s one-time fling with Matt LeBlanc (after she erroneously thought Sean had already had an affair). The British couple still work together on the US version of their hit UK show, now known as Pucks! Unfortunately, their show is creamed in the ratings by another network’s sitcom about a talking dog, making an already awkward situation even more awkward.
Sean and Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe) do begin sleeping together in actuality rather than in just Beverly’s suspicions, but it’s not a relationship fated to last. Matt continues his affair with Jamie (Genevieve O’Reilly), the blind wife of network president Merc Lepidus (the terrific John Pankow), and later sleeps with his long-term personal stalker, the improbably-named Labia (Sophie Rundle), again. Beverly begins dating Morning Randolph’s brother Rob (James Purefoy, who I thought was chilling as Joe Carroll in The Following), which drives Sean mad. Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins) and Merc are still conducting their affair as well, which becomes even more complicated when network chairman Elliot Salad (Michael Brandon) tells Carol that Merc is being fired and she has been tapped to replace him. Carol turns down the job, but dumps Merc at the end of the season as well.
If this all seems a bit on the complicated side to you, trust me when I say this only scratches the surface of everything that happens during the season. This nine-episode arc is primarily concerned about the emotional fallout from the first season, especially the damaged relationship between Sean and Beverly, and from the critical fallout of the sitcom being acknowledged as a huge flop. All of this comes to a head during the ninth episode finale, and ends with a hilarious brawl and a tentative reconciliation between our two favorite Brit comedy writers.
Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig and Matt LeBlanc are the stars of this show. I like it best when all three of their characters share the screen. The rest of the cast does superb work as well, but they are there to support, to prop up the main storyline, which is the Strangers-in-a-Strange-Land tale of Sean and Beverly, the majority of which is centered around the hilariously self-centered LeBlanc (the character “Matt LeBlanc,” whom I solemnly hope is nothing like the real Matt LeBlanc).
As I mentioned at the top, I enjoyed this season even more than the first. The interpersonal dynamics are dialed up to eleven as the lives of these characters continue to fall apart like a slow-motion train wreck. And yet, even amidst the hilarious chaos, we are treated to some genuinely well-acted drama about a marriage on the rocks and a behind-the-scenes look at television production.
No surprise here. I will continue to watch.
Firewater’s Season 2 Report Card: A