Series Premiere — Episodes, “Episode One”

With television patience is a big point of emphasis. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and if the start to the story isn’t exciting, influential or in some cases good, it is difficult to determine the value in sticking with it. For long-running serials, especially on cable, the party line is always to hang around and wait for the characters to crystallize and the plots to clarify. And comedies always need some time to find their way around the tone.

But sometimes, no matter how buzzed about a series is or what network it’s on, a television series just sucks. Episodes is that series. This opening 30 minutes is downright dreadful, unfunny, poorly written and just generally boring. There is absolutely nothing to like about it and when I’m sitting around wondering when Matt LeBlanc is coming, there’s probably something awry (even if I kind of like Matt LeBlanc).

Here’s the problem that’s been talked about ad nauseum: Episodes has such disdain for the television industry that it’s just annoying. Every bit or supposed gag related to the production process, casting, etc. presented within this episode is completely clichéd and  unfunny. I understand the vitriol and anger towards the industry and there are probably a good number of these little tidbits that are actually true, but they’re executed here in such a hackneyed manner that it’s hard to believe we are supposed to believe any of these people are remotely successful, from the lead British writers to the television executives. The execs are, of course, stupid and blissfully unaware of the Lincoln’s original series. That’s expected, I guess. I get it, Hollywood executives are stupid. I read Entertainment Weekly, I know there are movies being made about a Ouija board, okay?

But it’s the Lincolns, Sean and Beverly who are so insufferable. They’re so easily consumed by the Hollywood life, but yet find themselves shocked when executives might want to tinker with the script. Literally mouth agape shocked. These people are stupid. I see that the series wants to make some commentary on the differences between the British and American television systems, but the two systems aren’t so different that the people working over in the UK are heroic, intelligent artists who pitch a vision and get it immediately approved for a glorious series in a snap of the finger. The Lincolns should know that executives, even good ones, have notes and sometimes those notes are dumb.

Unfortunately, this is not how the Lincolns operate. They are dumbfounded on a second by second basis in their initial meetings and the awkward casting session their former lead has to go through in order to be approved for the adaptation of their hit British series. It’s so forced and unfunny, like Entourage or Hung levels of unfunny. David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik have worked on such seminal sitcoms like Friends and Mad About You and maybe they’ve had these kind of problems in the past, but they still should know better when actually writing a good script. This is not a good script and it’s not performed well either.

Therein lies the problem with Episodes. It has a really intriguing premise and an interesting lead actor in the center in LeBlanc (who, unfortunately, isn’t really in this episode) that I really wanted to enjoy. Moreover, a number of critics, from Alan Sepinwall to Tod VanDerWerff, really enjoyed the later episodes of the seven-episode first season. But I’m not sure it’s even worth it to wade through the next three or four episodes to get to the few really good ones at the end. At a certain point, a series potential is outweighed by its horrible execution.

Sadly, I’ll probably stick with Episodes because I’m intrigued by LeBlanc and the premise, but it is honestly going to take a lot for this episode to be knocked out of some sort of year-end list that discusses worst episodes or worst pilots. It’s terrible. I hated it. Just hated it. I would rather watch The Cape premiere on loop than ever, ever watch this again.

 

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