New TV, Good TV: Episodes S01 E06

Beverly, Carol, and Sean on the set of "Pucks," a hockey comedy that was once an erudite Britcom

Beverly: You had pre-rolled joints in your bag.

Carol: Yeah, well, I also have tampons in my bag, but I only use them once a month.

Episodes is a new mid-season comedy on Showtime where television writers write about television writers writing. As a sort of Los Angeles counterpoint to New York-based 30 Rock, Episodes follows British writers Beverly and Sean as their successful show about a boys’ private school is converted into typical Hollywood mediocrity. Sean enjoys everything about LA, but Beverly is far more reluctant to embrace the sunny SoCal lifestyle. Matt LeBlanc also plays himself, as the horrifically miscast actor who recreates the headmaster’s role on the butchered American version of the show.

If Episodes is hilarious, it’s likely because most of the LA characters are deeply insecure people who, with faux sincerity and flashy Chiclet-grins, ironically reassure our writers about the security of their show. We engage with the world of Hollywood pilot production from two conflicting perspectives: Sean thinks Hollywood is a real laugh and that sometimes fake can be fun, just like “Pucks” actress Morning Randolph’s breasts, but Beverly thinks the falsity and inconsistency of Hollywood is completely infuriating. As viewers, sometimes we’re on Sean’s side and sometimes we’re on Bev’s, but the Hollywood types that we encounter are always ridiculous.

My favorite character so far is the under-appreciated and intellectually-underestimated network producer Carol. Beverly finds an unexpected friend in Carol, especially after they both smoke some adult substances together on the twin beds of the boys’ dormitory set. Carol is mildly more self-aware than Morning or executive producer Merc, which may explain why Beverly feels she can talk to her.

Beverly and Sean are almost too self-aware to function in Hollywood. Sean manages to slough off his stiff upper lip, but Beverly is constantly analyzing her behavior and the actions of everyone around her. Although there have only been six episodes of Episodes so far, what I’m enjoying most is the interaction between someone who can’t shake herself and characters who are filled with too much silicone and sunshine to have any sense of self at all. Will Bev conquer her loathing of LA? In next week’s episode, do she and Matt LeBlanc really californicate? Stay tuned!

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