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Denette Wilford Headshot

'Pucks' Might Suck, But 'Episodes' Certainly Does Not

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For most of the year, Monday nights in my home are busy ones. No, not volleyball games or dance classes or soccer practice. I'm talking about television. On a normal Monday, in the fall or midseason, there are at least eight shows being watched or recorded. Off the top of my head: "Castle," "Dancing With the Stars," "How I Met Your Mother," "Mike & Molly," "Hawaii Five-0," "The Voice," "Smash," Top Chef Canada" and "WWE Raw" (hubby, not me) are the ones to watch in our house. During the summer, however, the only things that get my attention are "Teen Wolf" and "America's Got Talent," if I remember to watch it.

So needless to say, I need another Monday show, something to unwind with after a long day. And thankfully, "Episodes" finally made its long-awaited return. It's been over a year (16 months, to be exact) since the Matt LeBlanc laffer aired, and is it just me, or did it get funnier? Maybe it's because we left off on quite a dour note, what with the epic fight between Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Matt, and then Sean and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) learning that they were stuck in L.A. after the pilot of "Pucks!" tested shockingly well. But where would we be in Season 2? Four months later, as luck would have it.

Like its pilot, the "Pucks!"' premiere was a hit, despite dismal reviews from The New York Post ("'Pucks!' sucks"), Entertainment Weekly ("LeBlanc shoots a le blank") and even The Huffington Post ("I was totally prepared to hate tonight's new comedy, 'Pucks!'. Well the good news is, I was prepared.") And even though Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) tried to reassure Sean, telling him "no one cares about TV reviews," I will continue to type (though my pride was a tad hurt).

"Episodes," in comparison to "Pucks!", is a hit in its own right. It may not be up to, say, the standards of an NBC sitcom that lasted for 10 must-see seasons, but it's equally amusing. Sure, it's done on a much smaller scale, but it being a British series with the freedom of airing on a cable network makes it one of the funniest scripted comedy shows around.

If Sean's review roundup or Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) complaining about helping Merc (John Pankow) buy his blind wife, Jamie (Genevieve O'Reilly) a beautiful ring ("The woman is blind, how will she know? Give her one of her old ones.") wasn't funny enough, the hilarity continues in next week's second episode as -- spoiler alert, if you have the premiere PVR-ed or TiVo-ed -- Sean and Matt's relationship is resolved (sort of), Matt and Jamie play with fire and "Pucks!" gets its butt kicked by a talking dog.

OK, it doesn't sound like the most scintillating stuff, but "Episodes" doesn't just bring the funny. The show has loads of heart and, at times, it can be quite bleak. With Sean and Beverly no longer living together, the two manage to continue a great working relationship, which makes it a little hard to believe they haven't been able to work things out. LeBlanc may seem like the centre of the series, but it's Mangan and Greig who give us the show's main rooting factor because they so clearly belong together. Matt's desperate attempts at getting his friend back (despite his douchey behaviour) is a close second, a testament to how charming and lovable Matt the character is. Really, LeBlanc is great at getting the most out of the fantastic words his character gets to say, whether he's begging Sean to be his pal again, or getting it on with his boss' blind wife.

The writing continues to be flawless and sharp as a tack, and the actors are among the best at delivering their lines and eye rolls. Throw in the way creators/co-executive producers/writers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik showcase the behind-the-scenes action of a big-budget network show (from both the creative and network aspects) and Showtime truly has another bona fide hit on its hands. The first season of "Episodes" was promising, but I think we all know that sometimes promising isn't good enough. The comedy has actually found itself in its sophomore season, making it a thoroughly entertaining, captivating and, yes, must-see half-hour.

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