Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No Friends for Episodes

Showtime's Episodes continues to provide chapters of a wonderful, ongoing story week after week. In the latest entry, Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean (Stephen Mangan) finally reconnect, Matt (Matt LeBlanc) finds out what his former Friends co-stars really think of him, and Morning (Mircea Monroe) gets a fix to her problem.

Poor Morning. It's interesting that Episodes takes someone so pretty and tarnish her so. On modern television, many of the actors are of above average beauty, and especially in Hollywood, looks mean a lot. Yet, Episodes is brave enough to not only screw up Morning's prettiness for a single episode, but to draw it out in an extended arc. Kudos to the writers and Monroe for going down this path, terrifically skewering this tradition of the industry.

Of course, Monroe isn't the only pretty face on Episodes. Los Angeles is full of them, and several more appear on the show. Matt's current problem is one in particular named Labia (Sophie Rundle), who shows a lot more than her face. She is Matt's stalker, and this week, she is prancing around his kitchen in only a pair of panties, baking him cookies. One would think that Matt, horn dog that he is, would like this turn of events, and he doesn't complain too loudly. But he does kick her out.

Matt is a player, and this is the reason that he can't embrace Labia. It's not that she's too crazy for him, which should be the main sticking point. It's that he doesn't want to only sleep with her, even if she is hot, and he doesn't want her hanging around constantly, which is what would happen even more after sex.

However, how Matt treats Labia also reveals his good side. Yes, he does threaten to call the cops. But that isn't his immediate response. And he tries really hard to get her to leave without threats at first. He isn't overly mean. He's tough, but fair.

Until he tosses off the one-liner "But you didn't!" in response to her assertion that she would die for him, which does go kinda low, considering they met when she was a Make-A-Wish kid with cancer.

This inability to resist the insult, and not even realize how wrong it is, is a major theme in Matt's life. He obviously doesn't consider it a big deal, but his former Friends co-stars do, none of them agreeing to appear in the show within a show, Pucks! Nor in Episodes for that matter. One wonders if perhaps the reason viewers only see Matt's side of the conversation is because it kind of ruins the "real" Matt in the show if those other Friends, who surely don't actually hate Matt, who is playing a caricature of himself, are glimpsed in the episode.

One Friends guy, James Michael Tyler (himself), who played ever-present Gunther, does come on Pucks! Matt is anything but grateful, taking some misplaced anger out on Tyler. Why can't Matt ever just say thanks? Why does he push? What drives this need to be liked, which is counterproductive, considering the way that he goes about achieving it?

Matt takes advantage of the couple of people that do not currently hate him, but probably will again soon enough, when he gets Sean and Beverly to write a speech he's supposed to give in honor of the slimy Merc (John Pankow). Matt acts like he appreciates their efforts, but wants the script early so he can send it back for rewrites if he's not pleased, which goes against the spirit of a favor. If he treats everyone like this, it's no wonder he's alone!

Sean and Beverly find it exceedingly difficult to write something nice about Merc, give what a low life, two-faced, scum bag he is. But they don't accept the job for Merc, and they don't really do it for Matt, either, though their innate generosity and kindness, not yet completely eroded by Hollywood, do probably play a small part. Instead, they do it to spend time together, as each has shown a tenderness to their ex-spouse as of late.

It must be incredibly hard to work so closely with an ex. Normally, when a couple breaks up, they can go their separate ways. Sean and Beverly still have to write Pucks! Somehow, they've found a way to be more than civil towards each other, which makes their reunion inevitable. But because this is a TV show, there must be a number of bumps and misunderstandings along the way.

Which is why, in the middle of getting busy, Sean stops and refuses to go through with it, not ready to forgive Beverly for her accidental indiscretion. It's a tease to viewers, who want them together, but not an unexpected one. Sean has already had a little taste of another woman, and Beverly has Morning's brother in the wings, so that'll kill some more time. The two have to get back together. Just not yet, of course.

Episodes also stars the hilarious Kathleen Rose Perkins. Catch new episodes Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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