‘Episodes’ 12-01-10


Image credit: Hat Trick Productions.

‘Episodes’ is a new BBC sitcom of a British couple (played by Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan) who also happen to have written and produced their own BAFTA winning comedy show, Lymen’s Boys. They are persuaded at the awards ceremony by an American network to re-create their show for an American audience and are flown off to LA where their first big blow is to have their leading man, a stumpling spluttering Richard Griffiths, re-cast inappropriately as Matt Leblanc, more widely known of course as Joey.

The names to any comedy fans of the last decade are very familier but for types of comedy very far removed from each other, the idea of an American sitcom meeting a British one is a strange concept indeed. The grating of the accents and clashing of styles alongside one another was something I was very worried about them tackling. Anyone who has seen British actors on American sitcoms such as Friends of Seinfeld will know and understand the perplexing accent mix up that can occur as the British ‘play up’ to the extremes of the Queen’s English or cockney stereotype. Would the most recent of many failed attempts to get Matt Leblanc back on our screens become a very embarrassing shambles in the careers of our still rising Brits?

Despite my reservations this first episode has me fairly impressed. Quirky British humour takes the foreground and there is a good amount of laughter at both our and the Americans expense. Greig ends up in an accident driving on the wrong side of the road, the pillars in their fancy LA mansion turn out to be props made from polystyrene and there is a hilarious scene with a very serious security guard. The meeting with the American producers is also highly amusing. The situation is of course familiar to us, America buys one of our shows, raves about it and then changes it so it’s barely recognisable; the comedic aspects that made it so brilliant become American-ised and then drawn out so long that the show loses it’s character and appeal altogether. Take ‘The Office’, for example. The characters of the American producers commissioned to tear apart the Lincoln’s ‘baby’ are smarmy, smirking and hypocritical. In true (stereotypical) American style anything negative is said, with a smile, as a barbed compliment; “It is set in stone… but there are things stronger than stone…”. Matt Leblanc, THE American, doesn’t appear in this episode but his name as the final world followed by the crippling silence of shock, make me already eager for next weeks episode!

It’s not the spontaneous humour I think we’re used to seeing Greig perform, which is a disappointment but then it does seem to be our side of the field taking control, rather than the American dominance I was expecting. Then again when Leblanc makes his grand entrance next week, the whole thing could flip. I’ll be staying tuned…

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