We Recommend: Episodes

Last year, Episodes debuted on BBC2 and Showtime. A UK/US hybrid, it featured popular UK actors Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig as TV writers who take their hit British sitcom across the pond for a remake, only to be lumbered with popular US actor Mat LeBlanc, playing a caricature of himself.

It was a strange series, with a stumbling start. Nonetheless, it’s now back for season two, and we’ve previewed the first new episode.

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The first year took a few weeks to get going, suffering from some lame humour and a few characters who felt quite two-dimensional, but by the end, as the three lead characters established a strange dysfunctional unit, it had become a fun weekly appointment.

Matt LeBlanc’s performance, self-deprecating without being cartoonish, was a highlight, and he’s still on good form. Mangan and Greig are more comfortable in their parts, finally, and there’s some fun with TV reviews that may or may not be a jab at the response to Episodes itself.

Yes, all the American characters except LeBlanc are thin, but there is effort to make a few (mostly Carol and Morning) more bright and self-aware. Clearly, Chief TV Exec Merc is always going to be a joke.

It does seem odd that they’ve made a whole sitcom sending up Matt LeBlanc, yet never mention the failed Joey spin-off, but that could be a clause in his contract. The one place they may never go.

In short: if you stuck with Episodes through last season and found, like I did, that it became a lot better by the end, you’ll be pleased to hear it has not gone backwards. Also, the budget has gone up, or they’re more adept at working within it, because I didn’t find myself thinking “Wow, that looks cheap” anywhere near as often. A decent return.

Episodes airs Fridays at 10PM on BBC Two starting tonight. More details on the official BBC site.

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