My most recently discovered favorite TV show is a comedy series about a British couple, both writers for a successful sitcom in the UK, who take up an offer to come to Hollywood in order to make an American version of their hit series. As many of you will have guessed, this premise holds in store a bunch of exaggerated, in-your-face American jokes, coupled with the slightly nuanced, dry British humor. At the same time it takes a careful look at stereotypes of both cultures, and makes heavy use of both. For anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the British-American dichotomy, a recipe for plenty of laughs. But there is more...
Joey From Friends?
This witty series is titled Episodes, and consists of five short seasons, aired between 2011 and 2017 at about the same time on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it managed to completely miss my attention entirely, until recently when my wife and I got into watching Joey. Who, youŕe asking? Well Joey, duh! The guy from Friends, who after that series finished in 2004, started his own solo show, continuing the story of his very charming but not so bright character. To be honest, I ended up enjoying Joey a lot more than I had expected. It was almost like watching completely new Friends episodes, which focused entirely on Joey. Granted, the humor was often so dumb, yet so funny, that in the end I had to laugh about realizing how such stupid jokes got me laughing so hard.
Staring as Himself
Joey was discontinued in 2006, and Episodes was the first time actor Matt LeBlanc came back on the screen. A five year hiatus after having only one major character in an epic show and its spin-off? Sounds like a major challenge, even for the biggest stars. But LeBlanc managed to pull it off with flying colors. The trick was probably playing himself, or rather a satirically fictional version of himself. Again, a major risk that could have potentially become the last thing we'd ever hear of Matt LeBlanc. But he ended up winning a Golden Globe for it. His fictional character seems to have a fairly good amount of Joey in it, along with numerous self-depreciating portrayals of him being your typical millionaire Hollywood douche-bag. All this shrouds the actual personality of the actor in even deeper mystery.
Hollywood's Ugly Underbelly
As narcissistic and sex-obsessed as LaBlanc appears to be, he is only the tip of the iceberg among the rest of the dream factory, made up of sleazy producers, manipulative agents, and worse. In fact, Episodes seems to make fun of the entire film industry in specific, and Americans in general. Fake smiles and lip service, while blowing off the other side completely? These things come so naturally you wouldn't even notice the abnormality, if it weren't for the English protagonists who are affected by it directly. But not so fast! The British “normality” doesn't get away unshorn either: General communication problems, awkward moments, and tons of embarrassment accompany each episode, making even the least self conscious viewers cringe... before laughing out loud.
Not Enough Episodes
The only drawback to this series (other than the name, which is so generic no wonder I missed it entirely) is the shortness of its seasons. Instead of the 20+ episodes of 45 minutes each, a season of Episodes consists of merely 7-9 half-an-hour episodes. So while binging on it may be fun, it won't last very long, even if you pace yourself. A possible reason for this is explained various times throughout the show, where series on British television have surprisingly few episodes. The protagonists hit show was running for four years, but had fewer episodes than only one season of a typical show in the States. Together with the “minuscule” viewership, simply due to the size of the UK, nobody in Hollywood sees the couple's success for what it is.
In spite of this shortcoming, Episodes makes up for its short duration with lots of funny situations, and interesting intercultural analysis. All in all, this is mainly what I enjoyed about it, and decided that it's wort writing a post about it. So if I managed to get you interested, check out this trailer of the first season:
Take a Look at the Previous Posts in my Binge On This Series:
Peaky Blinders: Thug Life in 1920's Birmingham
Sense8: The Most Colorful Ensemble Cast
StartUp: Not For Learning About Crypto!
Chernobyl: An Apocalyptic Documentary
The Handmaid's Tale: A Not Too-Far-Off Dystopia
Twin Peaks: The Return - The Series Closing After 25 Years
Silicon Valley: Humor from the World of Tech and Money
Dark: Intense Time-Travel for Germanophiles
Twin Peaks: The Show That Changed Everything
The Man In the High Castle: What if the Nazis Had Won?
Lost: Mystery With Addictive Potential
Babylon Berlin: Sociopolitical Tremmors in the Weimar Republic
Rome: A Realistic Sandal Series
Carnivàle: A Throw-back to the Thirties
Weeds: The Hillarious Alternative to Breaking Bad
Mr. Robot: Hackers, Freedom, and Mental Issues
Das Boot: A Real German WWII Series
Black Sails: Pirate Lore Galore
Twelve Monkeys: Time Travel and Pandemic
The DocsMX 2020 Film Festival