Episodes is a British/American television sitcom created by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik and produced by Hat Trick Productions. It premiered on Showtime in the United States on 9 January 2011 at 21:30 hrs. and on BBC Two in the United Kingdom on 10 January 2011 at 22:00 hrs. The show is about a British husband-and-wife comedy writing team who travel to Hollywood to remake their successful British TV series, with disastrous results.
On 11 December 2013, it was announced that Showtime had renewed Episodes for a fourth season.
After happily married couple Sean and Beverly Lincoln win yet another BAFTA Award for their successful British sitcom, Lyman's Boys, they are persuaded to move to Hollywood and remake their series for an American audience. Unfortunately the network starts to make changes, and pressure the couple into casting Matt LeBlanc in the lead role.
A complicated triangle ensues, in which Sean becomes friends with Matt, while Beverly is less impressed. Continuing changes to the scripts threaten to damage the show, and other pressures result in difficulties in Sean and Beverly's marriage.
Cast and characters
Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc – a fictionalized version of himself. Matt is a wealthy, charming, but arrogant, self-centred and flawed actor who was persuaded by the high salary to take the starring role of Coach Lyman in Sean and Beverly's American adaptation. He develops a friendship with Sean, but his relationship with Beverly is frosty and antagonistic, a situation which comes to a head after a collision between their cars, after which the two sleep together. In Season 2, Matt embarks upon a relationship with network executive Merc Lapidus' wife, Jamie, and also engages in a one-night-stand with his stalker, Labia. While Matt is ostensibly an old friend of Merc's, secretly the two dislike each other. Matt has two sons, who spend most of their time with their mother, Diane, with whom Matt shares a volatile yet ultimately caring relationship. In Season 3, he openly goes out with Jamie after her separation from Merc, but he also has a one-night-stand with Morning's daughter. Andrew tries to poach Matt from Sean and Beverly and offers him the leading role in an NBC pilot.
Tamsin Greig as Beverly "Betsy" Lincoln – the other half of the successful creative team behind Lyman's Boys, which focused on the stuffy headmaster of a boarding school. Beverly moves to Hollywood with her husband to adapt their show but is quickly overwhelmed by the new business. Over the course of Season 1, Beverly becomes convinced that her husband, Sean, is attracted to the show's lead actress, Morning, which culminates in her sleeping with Matt out of jealousy. In Season 2, Beverly maintains a professional yet awkward relationship with both Sean and Matt, although both relationships improve by the later episodes. Unlike Sean, Beverly struggles with Hollywood, and her only friend in Hollywood is network executive Carol, with whom she often goes jogging and smokes pot. She embarks on a brief relationship with Morning's brother, Rob, but this quickly ends when she realises she still loves Sean, and the two get back together. In Season 3, Eileen Jaffee tries to turn an old script of hers and Sean's into a show for another network, but Beverly refuses, as she wants to return to England with Sean.
Stephen Mangan as Sean Lincoln – a British television producer who found success with Lyman's Boys, a comedy series that he co-created with his wife and writing partner, Beverly. Sean comes to America to adapt the show, which is later transformed into a stock sitcom focusing on Matt Le Blanc's hockey coach character. During his time in Hollywood, Sean's relationship with his wife deteriorates, due to his attraction to Morning and Beverly's subsequent affair with Matt. Sean engages in a casual relationship with Morning throughout Season 2, but he reconciles with Beverly in the Season 2 finale. Sean's friendship with Matt is also tested by Beverly and Matt's affair, but the two gradually form a solid friendship again over the course of the second season. In Season 3, Sean is excited by the fact that Eileen Jaffee is trying to turn a script he wrote with Beverly into a show, but eventually realises that Beverly is not interested.
John Pankow as Merc Lapidus – the president of the network responsible for bringing Beverly and Sean to America to adapt Lyman's Boys, and subsequently for its deterioration into a stock sitcom. Merc is two-faced, often telling Sean and Beverly one thing and almost immediately saying the exact opposite to his network team, which is usually filtered to Beverly through her friend Carol. Merc is married to Jamie, who is blind, but is frequently unfaithful to her. His most enduring affair is with his underling Carol, who has been infatuated with her boss since they began sleeping together five years ago, probably around the time he found out he had cancer which later left him with only one testicle. The network under his leadership went from the last to number one for four years, until his final year in the job. In the Season 2 finale, Merc receives an award for "Man of the Year"; finds out about Matt and Jamie's affair; is dumped by Carol; and is fired by the network for selling the biggest comedy hit of the new season to a rival network while his own shows struggle in the ratings, all in the same one night. The season ends with him standing out in the rain, having lost everything. In Season 3, Merc is going through a divorce from Jamie. He tries unsuccessfully to pitch show ideas, all of which are concepts he previously dismissed, to the network. In the season finale, he finds out from Beverly and Sean that Matt is going to do an NBC pilot, and passes this information on to Elliot Salad, causing difficulties for Matt, Sean and Beverly.
Kathleen Rose Perkins as Carol Rance – the network's head of programing. She is Merc's second-in-command. Carol is shown to be much more competent at her job than her boss. She has been conducting a secret affair with Merc for over five years, and their relationship seems to be asymmetrical: she loves him more than he loves her. While also dishonest and two-faced, Carol shows more emotion towards Beverly and Sean than Merc does, and admits that she still believes Pucks! is a potential hit for the network, even when Merc doesn't. She becomes good friends with Beverly, and they often smoke pot or go jogging together. Her loyalty to Merc prevents her from taking his job when Merc is fired in the Season 2 finale. In Season 3, she sleeps with her new boss Castor Sotto, who is emotionally unstable. She is upset with Beverly after she sees Sean having a meal with Eileen Jaffee and believes the couple are making a deal behind her back. When Beverly assures her that they are not interested in making another show and would rather return to England, Carol unceasingly tries to get their script to her network instead.
Mircea Monroe as Morning Randolph – the leading actress employed by the network to play Nicola McCutcheon opposite Matt's character on Pucks!. A running gag throughout the show is Morning's age, which, due to extensive plastic surgery, is much greater than her appearance suggests. There is a lingering attraction between her and Sean throughout Season 1, which is acted on in Season 2 when the two begin a very casual relationship, based mostly around sex. She maintains a solid relationship with Matt, whose self-centred and vain personality matches hers, and Merc, who believes Morning to be one of the only draw cards for Pucks!. Beverly makes her dislike of Morning known, but the two manage to develop a professional relationship. Morning perceives herself as a household name because she was Kelly on the show Kelly Girl many years ago. In Season 3, when Matt tells her he wants to leave Pucks!, she suggests to Sean and Beverly to let her character couch the ice hockey team instead. She is distressed to find out her daughter Dawn, who has been disguised as her sister since birth, has slept with Matt and subsequently been dumped during Dawn's visit to the studio.
Genevieve O'Reilly as Jamie Lapidus (Season 1-3) - Merc's blind wife. She starts an affair with Matt in Season 2, and divorces Merc at the start of Season 3. She breaks up with Matt when she finds out he has cheated on her.
Chris Diamantopoulos as Castor Sotto (Season 3) - the new network executive. He gets Merc's job after Merc's resignation. He is under medication for a number of psychiatric problems. His medication has made him react to Carol in a differing manner. When he stops his medication on his own against his psychiatrist's advice, he goes insane on a meeting and is fired by the network.
Joseph May as Andy Button (Season 1-3) - the head of casting of the network. He is fired by Merc in Season 1's finale because he likes the talking dog show. He is re-hired in Season 2 when he threatens a lawsuit against the network. He tapes Merc's fight with Matt in the Man of the Year award and puts it on YouTube.
Daisy Haggard as Myra Licht (Season 1-3) - the head of comedy of the network. She often gives negative facial expressions and utters disapproving noises.
Oliver Kieran-Jones as Andrew Lesley (Season 1-3) - Beverly and Sean's former personal assistant. He has become a screenwriter and has sold a movie script to Paramount in Season 1, much to the couple's annoyance. In Season 2, Paramount lets him direct his second script, and in the season finale, he signed a deal with Merc to create a television show which is actually modeled after how Sean and Beverly have suffered in Hollywood. In Season 3, he is doing 2 pilots and a screenplay. He tries to steal Matt from Beverly and Sean for his pilot of a drama show for NBC.
Fiona Glascott as Diane (Season 1-3) - Matt's ex-wife. She is often pissed at Matt. She threatens to limit his visitation rights to their two sons, Aiden and Michael, when she finds out Matt has been with his lunatic stalker Labia.
Sophie Rundle as Labia (Season 2-3) - Matt's stalker. She has been stalking Matt for 15 years. She was a Make-A-Wish kid and her wish had Matt take her to Disneyland. But she survived her cancer and started stalking him, and he got a restraining order against her. Yet he slept with her once when she was 18. She befriends Sean on Facebook in Season 2 to learn Matt's whereabouts. She eventually sleeps with Matt when he feels depressed over his own weight. She has a boyfriend in Season 3 and has apparently stopped stalking Matt.
Scarlett Rose Patterson as Wendy (Season 2-3) - Sean and Beverly's personal assistant. She never concentrates on her work and often tries to leave early.
Nigel Planer as Sanford Shamiro (Season 2-3) - Matt's Lawyer. He is always handling the backlash of Matt's actions, mainly involving Matt's ex-wife Diane and his stalker Labia. Informs Matt that he's thinking of retiring to open a zoo, as he's found 'the only animal that can screw itself' (meaning LeBlanc).
Sam Palladio as Stoke (Season 2-3) - the actor who plays the ice hockey team player Howie in Pucks!. He does well in Hollywood because he is "with the hair". He leaves without finishing filming Pucks! for a Michael Bay movie in Season 3.
Harry McEntire as Jason (Season 2-3) - an actor who plays an ice hockey team player in Pucks!.
Jacob Anderson as Kevin (Season 2) - an actor who plays an ice hockey team player in Pucks!. His character in the show has 2 gay fathers.
Lucien Laviscount as Brian (Season 3) - an actor who plays an ice hockey team player in Pucks!.
Demetri Goritsas as Director (Season 1-2) - the director of Pucks!.
Eros Vlahos as "Pucks!" Boy (Season 1) - an actor who plays a 12-year-old school boy in Pucks!. Beverly finds him smoking outside the studio.
Michael Brandon as Elliot Salad (Season 2-3) - the chairman of the network. He comes to L.A. from New York to fire Merc at the end of Season 2. He also fires Merc's replacement Castor Sotto in the Season 3 finale. He makes a decision concerning Pucks! when he learns from Merc that Matt is getting a new show at NBC.
Roger Bart as Jason (Season 3) - Matt's agent. (William Hope also played Matt's agent in Season 1. As Matt may have had this agent since the time he still had a movie career, the two actors seem to have played the same character.)
James Purefoy as Rob Randolph (Season 2) - Morning's younger brother. He and Beverly date briefly in Season 2.
Lou Hirsch as Wallace (Season 1) - the security guard at the gates of the Beverly Hills estates where Sean and Beverly live. He never remembers the two and often has trouble letting them inside the gates.
Beverly was originally to be portrayed by Claire Forlani, but she left the cast in April 2010 when the series was in pre-production. LeBlanc was to play a "larger than life version of himself" as character Matt LeBlanc.Thomas Haden Church was also to have a role in the series as Merc Lapidus, the American television executive who commissions the remake, but he left due to scheduling conflicts, and was replaced by John Pankow.
Although the majority of the show was set in Los Angeles, it was mainly filmed in the UK, including the £35 million mansion Updown Court as the house of Beverley and Sean Lincoln, with inserts shot on location in LA.
The second series began transmissions on BBC Two and BBC HD on May 11, 2012 and on July 1, 2012 on Showtime.
Stephen Mangan announced on his Twitter page that filming of the third season, consisting of nine episodes, would start in spring 2013. He later amended the date to June 2013.
The response of the American critics was positive. Robert Bianco of USA Today called the show "easily the best new sitcom of the season" and The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert said that "Each of the season's seven half-hours is a little sliver of pleasure." A Boston Herald review by Mark A. Perigard was lukewarm; he said he feared that the show would never achieve a broad audience and David Wiegand from the San Francisco Chronicle praised the performances of the actors but felt that the series simply was not funny.Alan Sepinwall of HitFix went further declaring the show to be one of the worst TV moments of 2011. The UK critics' response to the first episode was broadly lukewarm while remaining optimistic. More screentime for Matt LeBlanc was eagerly anticipated by some, with The Independent's Brian Viner believing that this might improve the series.
The second season received widespread critical acclaim. Henry Goldblatt of Entertainment Weekly called the second season "[A] terrific second season of this industry-set sitcom".USA Today said of the show "As smartly written as it is played, Episodes offers the comic pleasures, not just of clashing cultures, but of contrasting comic styles. On one side you have LeBlanc, who handles the big laughs and the broader humor, and does it so well, it serves as a reminder that he was under-appreciated during his years on Friends." Ed Bark of Uncle Barky praised the season saying it was "a thoroughly entertaining romp, with the television industry as a combination Tilt-A-Whirl/merry-go-round. On the Firewall & Iceberg podcast Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg commented on the second season, saying that the "self-congratulatory, obvious" show that is "oddly tone-deaf about the business that is was trying to satirize" is "not about anything" and "as a result is better for it", but is still "groaningly unfunny".
The third season received mostly positive reviews from critics, but they were not as strong as those of the previous season. Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker gave the season a positive review, saying "It seemed doubtful that the show’s creators could keep those plates spinning for another round, but the third season introduces a fantastic new contrivance: a psychotic new network head, played by Chris Diamantopoulos." Brian Lowry of Variety gave the season a lukewarm review, praising Matt LeBlanc's performance, writing: "Episodes remains distinguished, mostly, by Matt LeBlanc's gameness in playing a jaundiced, utterly self-absorbed version of himself, the classic stereotype of a sitcom star with an oversized ego.". Phil Dyess-Nugent of The A.V. Club gave the season a "C+" grade and a mixed review, writing: "It's turned out to be a fairly tired satire of Hollywood, one that's stayed yoked to its dubious premise."
In the UK, episode one of the series premiered with an audience of 1.86 million, an audience share of 8.5%. Episode two received 1.53 million viewers (7.4%), and by episode four viewing numbers were down to 1.09 million (5.3%). Episode five saw a slight rise in viewers to 1.33 million (6.6%), but numbers once again fell for episode six to 1.12 million (5.5%), and the season ended with the lowest number of viewers, 1.06 million (5.1%), tuning in for the final episode. The second series in the UK began with 1.34 million, audience share of 6.8%, but by episode seven had steadily declined to 0.68 million viewers and an audience share of 3.3%. As in the US, the UK's reception to the second series was positive with The Arts Desk saying "There were some very funny industry-related gags, not least network boss Merc (John Pankow) and his PA-cum-mistress Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) having sex on his desk while roaring the ratings figures back at one another. The cast are excellent value but at the moment only Greig seems to be playing for genuine emotional stakes. Portraying an exaggerated version of his on-screen persona, LeBlanc’s sweet, sex-obsessed shallowness is all that's required, but Mangan – a terrific comic actor - seems constantly to be toying with a smirk, devaluing some of the emotional currency you sense Episodes is striving for. Together, they've proved they can make us laugh."
The series premiered in Australia on Nine on July 3, 2012, with season two returning on September 4, 2012. The first two seasons were replayed by subscription television network BBC UKTV (as opposed to Nine which is a free-to-air network), premiering January 28, 2014. Unlike the first two seasons which premiered in Australia on Nine, season three will premiere on BBC UKTV in 2014.