Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Episodes Season 4

Television veterans and real-life couple David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik do all the heavy lifting on Episodes, writing every word and directing and producing each episode. Klarik says he writes for revenge, and one can feel the sting of anger in sequences like the montage in the second episode of the show's fourth season. Grotesquely cheery insincerity reaches monumental heights as network executives shower the show's main characters, husband-wife writers Beverly (Tamsin Greig) and Sean (Stephen Mangan) Lincoln, with compliments on the new TV series the pair are pitching, then promptly suggest changes that would undo its very essence.

But Episodes's dominant tone, as its playful oom-pah-pah theme song indicates, is absurdity, not outrage. British writers who labor at a U.S. network that hired them to Americanize their BBC hit series and then turned it into a painfully bad, by-the-numbers sitcom, Beverly and Sean are alternately amused and appalled by the insecurity-ridden, rampantly materialistic world they find themselves in, with its flagrantly incompetent bosses, double-talking agents, thieving financial managers, and freakishly well-preserved actors. Even Beverly, who claims she wants nothing more than to go back home to England (Sean enjoys Hollywood's money and perks enough to want to stay a while), is sometimes susceptible to Tinsel Town's inducements, though she gets in plenty of zingers at its expense. With no laugh track and just one camera, Episodes is staged more like a drama than a standard sitcom, but its deft dissection of American network TV makes it one of the funniest shows on television.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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