• Sundeep Bhatia

Why you really should watch Episodes

Episodes starts a new series on BBC2 tomorrow and,if you never got hooked on the first series then I would urge you to watch.It is an extremely rare animal. An absorbing ,engaging and caustic comedy that combines the best of British comedy with the best of America n comedy without it appearing like a shotgun marriage of convenience.

Even more impressively it has played to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. That is quite a trick to pull off.It is a bit like getting oil and water to mix. It does that successfully because it’s starting premise is to emphasise the difference between American and English comedy and the difficulties and dangers in transmuting a successful British sitcom into something that might appeal to American audiences . Thus we start with a successful very English sitcom concerning a schoolmaster and his pupils. The writers of the series are invited to the states to “adapt” it for American tastes. The British writers,husband and wife,see their dream slowly but surely turn it into a nightmare as the American network culture,with it’s emphasis on ratings, infects their creation and turns it into something totally unrecognisable and alien. Thus the person selected to play the English schoolmaster is none other then Matt Le Blanc(Joey from Friends). In an inspired slight of hand he plays himself or rather,one would hope,a cariacature of himself. This works because one of the writers is David Crane who was one of the creators of the “Friends” television series. However this is a far darker confection then Friends ever was. The Matt Le Blanc here is a very complex creation.A womaniser,manipulator ,schemer and plotter with a taste for the high life laced with a liberal dosing of charm.This flip side of the character Joey is a very three dimensional creation. Add to this the Fish out of water British couple played by the excellent Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Grieg and you have a first rate satire that pitches the age old conundrum of creating quality television in the face of commercial pressures. It works because,like all good satire,there is an element of truth in it. You get the feeling that David Crane is trying to tell you something about what life on the set of Friends might have been like. In one memorable scene Mangan questions Matt Le Blanc why a librarian who was a lesbian in the British version,immune to the charms of the schoolmaster who desires her,is rewritten as heterosexual in the Anerican version. Le Blanc replies by emphasising how such a plot devise was required in Friends to keep the storyline going for ten seasons. Episodes is a joint creation by the best of British,the BBC,and The best of American,cable Channel Showtime. Highly Recommended.

Sundeep Bhatia (SundeepBhatia2 on Twitter) “.

#Television

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