‘Episodes’ – ‘Episode Seven’: How you smellin’?

While “Episodes” has had its fans among a number of TV critics, I was not one of them, for reasons I described in detail in my review before the season began. That review was based on all 7 episodes of the series, and because my issues remained largely the same throughout, I decided not to bother doing any show-by-show posts. Now the finale has aired, and I have a few final thoughts – and am interested in the opinions of those of you who stuck it out all the way through – coming up just as soon as bus in some real people…

I’ve heard from some critics and fans of the show who feel I was too harsh towards it – and, specifically, that my attempt to paint it as a predictably black-and-white, “artists=good, executives=evil” morality tale was inaccurate. Maybe the show wanted us to be annoyed with the Lincolns sometimes, too. Maybe they weren’t always supposed to be right. Maybe the executives were exaggerated but not always unreasonable.

Then a few days after the show debuted, Showtime held an “Episodes” session at press tour, and I specifically asked David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik about that. They seemed baffled by the idea that anyone would not find the show 100% sympathetic towards the Lincolns, or that anyone would be troubled by their depiction of the network suits, since virtually every single thing in the series had happened to either them or someone they knew. One critic actually told me afterwards that the session made him realize that a lot of the nuance he ascribed to the show wasn’t really there. (Others continued to love it, and a few gave me a hard time for not properly appreciating a work of such obvious satiric brilliance.)

And it’s not that I don’t believe any or all of the things in the series could or did happen, or even that a bunch of them all happened to a single person. (I’m sure the “Coupling” people have a horror story or 20.) But truth doesn’t automatically translate into great drama, or great comedy, especially when the truth was wrapped up in so many telegraphed punchlines, caricatured villains and a pair of main characters designed to be sympathetic but whom I quickly grew to dislike, both for their unrelenting naivete and for their role in a 7-week strawman argument.

Yes, there was the scene a while back where Matt LeBlanc made a convincing argument for why the female character on “Pucks!” shouldn’t be a lesbian, but beyond that it was episode after episode, scene after scene of the poor put-upon creatives having their dream chipped away piece by piece, when I never for a moment believed either that “Lyman’s Boys” was so brilliant or that translating it verbatim to America was a good idea.

I will say that I grew to hate the show just a little less in these last couple of episodes, in which the fate of “Pucks!” was largely beside the point and the focus turned to the state of Sean and Beverly’s marriage, and to how Matt LeBlanc had managed to wreck their personal lives just as much as he had their professional one. I don’t know that I actually laughed when Sean was hurling bottles of Joey cologne at Matt, but during that scene I at least felt like I was watching something resembling actual comedy rather than the lazy, predictable, shrill humor that had permeated so much of the series. I doubt I would watch a show that was primarily some kind of love triangle between the Lincolns and their leading man, but I know I would prefer it to the show that “Episodes” was for most of this first season. Based on the predestined ending in which “Pucks!” gets picked up, I imagine a hypothetical second season would unfortunately be more of the same.

But if you stuck with it all the way through to the end, I’m suspecting you liked it a lot more than I did. So what did everybody else think?

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