Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pilot Review: Episodes

Episodes (Showtime)
Premiered January 9 at 9:30pm

I’ll admit right off the bat that I really wasn’t expecting much from this show. No offense to Matt LeBlanc, but he doesn’t have a tremendous range, and the plot sounded like something that has been done many times before (and may even be the subject of this show’s lead-in series, “Californication,” this season). Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot. The flash forward to seven months later is somewhat intriguing because it presupposes events that will likely happen over the course of the first season, which will only be seven episodes. More than anything, it’s the music that makes this show. The bouncy score enhances every scene, and I think that without it the show would be considerably poorer and less engaging. Instead, this is a funny and enjoyable half-hour that doesn’t rush its events, taking proper time to let the reality of their situation sink in for clueless Brits Sean and Beverly Lincoln. I’m happy to see Tamsin Greig, recently seen as the scene-stealing wife in “Tamara Drewe,” as Beverly, the less trusting, more realistic one of the duo, and Stephen Mangan, who is unfamiliar to me, does a pretty solid job of nailing the far-too-trusting and easy to please and excite husband. We haven’t seen anything of LeBlanc yet besides one car conversation, so we’ll have to evaluate him more next week. I did enjoy the mix of the three executives working with the Lincolns, and seeing them constantly disappointed and so gleefully appalled is much more fun than I might have expected. Richard Griffiths’ guest appearance was a nice treat, and his painful, deteriorating scene was reminiscent of the awkwardness of “Extras.” I like the tone of the show, and having the incessantly annoying door announcer and Matt’s phone problems helped to establish that early on in the episode. I’m definitely intrigued, and I’m looking forward to seeing episode two.

How will it work as a series? That really depends on what happens once LeBlanc steps in to star in the project. Given this strong first installment, I think it will work just fine, and keeping it to seven episodes makes sense so that things won’t be too dragged out too much and a neat plot arc can be resolved or left to continue into a second season. I’m hopeful.
How long will it last? I Beyond a seven-episode first season, of course, I don’t know. A show like “Extras” only lasted two seasons, purposely, and I think that this show, basing itself off of the British shows it’s attempting to parody and mangle, is probably wise to do the same. Being nestled between two of Showtime’s high-profile shows shouldn’t hurt, and I think a season two renewal shouldn’t be too far off, especially considering how well the pilot performed in retaining over 90% of its lead-in's ratings.

Pilot grade: B+

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