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Episodes: The Third Season (2014)
DVD Released: 1/13/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/13/2015
We humans are creatures of habit, and, as you know, we like what we like. Having grown up with the standard network television schedule, I still have issues with the bizarre programming calendars set forth by the cable networks, if for nothing else because they come across as so totally random. Take the Showtime series Episodes for example. Season 2 of the show aired from July-August of 2012. Season 3 didn't appear until over 16 months later in January 2014. How are we, the audience, supposed to keep up with a story when it's gone for that long? Does this happen because the series is concerned with British TV writers, as we all know how wacky their television schedules are. Doesn't Showtime realize that some viewers may assume that the show is never coming back? Whatever the case, Episodes: The Third Season has now arrived on DVD and it's time to play catch up.Season 2 of Episodes ended with a huge fight at an awards show, which lead to network executive Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) losing his job. The fact that his wife, Jamie (Genevieve O'Reilly) was cheating on him with Matt LeBlanc (Matt LeBlanc) didn't help. As Season 3 opens, the cast and crew of "Pucks" are attempting to get back to work. However, series creators and writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) are having difficulties of their own. These transplanted Brits have avoided being seduced by Hollywood, but they have been seduced by some people in Hollywood, and this has thrown their marriage into chaos. But, they decide that they need to work things out. At the same time, Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins) is dealing with the fact that her boss, Merc, is gone, and she must now face the fact that a replacement is coming. Meanwhile, "Pucks" continues to tank in the ratings and the show sits on the brink of cancellation. Does this mean that Sean and Beverly could finally return to Britain?
When Episodes premiered in 2011, it offered an interesting take on American television. We've all heard the stories of how Hollywood will take a great idea and then manipulate it beyond recognition, but this series really scrutinized that idea and showed how a pair of creative, celebrated writers reacted to having their "baby" turned into something completely different. The show then went a step further and became meta with the inclusion ofFriends star Matt LeBlanc playing an exaggerated version of himself. While the other characters are fictional, the inclusion of Matt LeBlanc places the show squarely in our world, as there are discussion of Friends and references to other things in the real Matt's life. This made for a show which was not only skewering Hollywood, but being very clever about it as well.
The show has lost its way somewhat in Season 3. Episodes still examines the creative process in Los Angeles while exploring the relationships of Sean, Beverly, and Matt, but some minor changes have not paid off for the series. First of all, there's too much emphasis placed on Carol in this season. Carol is very good in small doses, and Perkins has played her well in the past, but she takes center stage much of the time in the first half of the season and Perkins now goes too far over the top with her. Carol's gift had been placating Sean and Beverly while being completely fake, but the focus on her relationship and her new boss doesn't work. Speaking of which, that new boss, played by Chris Diamantopoulos is a joke which I simply didn't get. You see, he's crazy -- In the sense that he has a true mental health disorder for which he's seeking treatment. But, he comes across as an energetic creative genius to the Hollywood phonies. Is this based on a real person? The confusion between inspired and unstable is clear, but the show pushes this character as if it's someone we are supposed to recognize.
The biggest problem with Season 3 is that it gets too far away from Sean and Beverly. They should be the main focus of the show and for much of the season, it didn't feel that way. And when they were on, their storylines weren't very interesting. It wasn't until the last few episodes, where one of their old projects suddenly becomes a hot property, that the show came back to life and felt more like Seasons 1 and 2.
These issues should not imply that Episodes has become unwatchable, but there's no doubt the show stumbled in this season. The writing simply wasn't as sharp and I feel that I didn't laugh as much as I did in the past. (Although, a certain joke about a depressing room definitely killed.) Showtime should still be proud to have this show on their roster, as it doesn't pull any punches when it comes to its portrayal of show business, but one would think that after such a long wait, that the results would have been better.
Episodes: The Third Season will make you feel lazy for sitting at your desk on DVD courtesy of Showtime Entertainment. The two-DVD set contains all nine episodes of the show's third season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, but a few shots do look soft. The depth is about what one would expect from a TV show on DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We don't get a lot of strong audio effects here, as most everything comes from the front and center channels. The typewriter sound effect which cues the conclusion of each episode does come from the rear channels, but little else does, save from some mild street and crowd noises.
The lone extra on the Episodes: The Third Season DVD is a series of text BIOGRAPHIES for the cast.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long