Friday, January 17, 2014

More EPISODES On Showtime

Article first written for Seat42F.

Showtime’s EPISODES, which, funnily enough, doesn’t use episode titles, begins its third outing this week. Picking up the morning after the events of season two’s finale, much has changed for the characters, while at the same time, life continues as normal, too. Some jobs have shifted and some decisions have been made, but the show called Pucks must go on, and so they get back to work.

Merc (John Pankow) vows to cancel Pucks, if you remember, but that was when he thought he would continue to head up the network, which obviously is no longer the position he holds. Nor does he have a woman to stand by his side, his wife, Jamie (Genevieve O’Reilly), having gone home with Matt (Matt LeBlanc), and Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) dumping him when she finally accepts just what a selfish jerk Merc is.

Thus, Merc begins the new year on a terrible note, desperate and alone. I don’t think he’s going anywhere, as Pankow is too valuable a player to lose, and Merc is still a figure in too many people’s lives. But he won’t be the same Merc we’ve grown used to, or at least he won’t have the same power and control.

Carol spends the first half hour trying to get a hold of Elliot (Michael Brandon) so she can accept Merc’s job, which Elliot offered her. But, as we know, Elliot is leaving town and intends to name the new network head before he goes. Did Carol wait too long to change her mind?

If so, that’s too bad. Yes, she’s a little self-centered, as we see again in a lunch scene during the season premiere, but Carol is a good person, by and large. At least she’s honest about who she is, including the lies she tells, and those around her know what they’re getting with her. She deserves the job more than Merc did, and she can certainly do better than Merc in choosing her next lover. Whether she takes the office now or later, it seems like a strong possibility that it will happen at some point.

One question not so up in the air is that of Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean’s (Stephen Mangan) relationship. After all, Sean comes to Beverly’s defense in the finale, and so the two are a couple again as season three begins.

But how long might that last? They both slept with other people, to be sure, and that could continue to hang over them. They must confess their sins, forgive one another, and move on. Keeping things from one another will destroy them when those hidden bits come out, as they inevitably will. However, fans of the show know how neurotic the two Brits can be, so forgiving and forgetting may be easier said than done.

I can actually live with a little tension between Beverly and Sean. What’s more important to the series is the dynamic between Sean, Beverly, and Matt as a trio. This fell apart quite a bit last year, and it’s nice to see it back on track now. They can have conflict, as that is entertaining, but things between the three can never be allowed to get so bad that they go their separate ways. That’s what would kill the show, but I think the writers are smart enough to realize that, pushing the characters as far as they can go, then pulling back just before permanent damage is done.

EPISODES is very, very funny. All these relationships above make up the story, but not necessarily the reason to tune in. Every installment has joke after joke that lands in the best of ways. From a secret that quickly spreads out of hand at the wrong time, to Sean helping Matt write an apology to his wife, to Matt’s charades behind Jamie as Merc attempts to win his wife back, there are amusing bits constantly in the most recent outing. Many of these are minor and lots are inappropriate, but the frequency, tone, and flow of them are what kick EPISODES up to a top-notch comedy series. This has not changed in the season three premiere.

Plus, unlike in previous seasons, there is no fretting about whether the often-on-the-bubble show will continue. It has already been renewed for a fourth season.

EPISODES premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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