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Episodes: Matt LeBlanc Plays Matt LeBlanc -- No, Really!

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Matt LeBlanc has found the perfect role in a new TV show, and no it is not another spin-off as Joey from Friends. In the new Showtime series Episodes he plays Matt LeBlanc, or at least a character with his same name. Whether or not the character of Matt LeBlanc is supposed to have any connection to the real Matt LeBlanc is up to the viewers to decide. Regardless of this fact, "Episodes" brings Le Blanc back to TV in a winning way.

The comedic plot has two British writers, Sean Lincoln (Stephen Mangan) and his wife Beverly (Tamsin Greig), brought to America by TV Producer Merc Lapidus (John Pankow)). They have written a wildly successful TV series for the BBC and now Merc wants to capture an American version.

The creation of the American version of their series makes up the plot for Episodes since nothing Merc promises them comes to pass. He takes their idea and changes it totally, including leaving behind their star (Richard Griffiths) and replacing him with Matt LeBlanc, who is totally wrong for the part.

But LeBlanc is perfectly cast as the "wrong actor" in this show. He is much more intelligent acting than we have seen him in the past, yet the lovable part of his personality is still intact. He appears to be "Joey's" older, more mature brother.

As good as LeBlanc is in this show he is outshown by Mangan and Greig. These two performers look like younger British versions of Elliot Gould and Paula Prentiss. They have amazingly sharp comic timing and elevate the solid scripts to higher levels. When they share scenes with LeBlanc they make him better than he has ever been in the past.

Being on Showtime there is a good bit of profanity and crude humor in the show, sometimes unnecessarily so, but it is what we have come to expect from cable. There are also stretches where the cumulative effect of the storyline is better than the individual scenes. For example a fairly dull dinner party at Merc's house leads to a bonding scene between Sean and Matt, which makes the preceding chatter worth the effort.

Episodes is the kind of Showtime show that could have been a major hit on network television, with some cuts in the language, etc. But here on Showtime it is sure to find a home and an audience. It should make big stars out of Mangan and Greig and also bring LeBlanc back into the celebrity spotlight.

Episodes premieres on Showtime, Sunday, January 9 at 9:30 PM.
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