DVD review: Episodes Series 4

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Episodes is a comedy series about people making comedy series.

Following their hellish experience adapting their own successful British sitcom into “Pucks” (a US remake, wrecked by producer interference) British husband and wife comedy writing team Bev and Sean (Greig and Mangan) find themselves back in Hollywood.  With Sean, at any rate, lured back by the prospect of cash, the duo escape the extramarital shenanigans that characterised the first three series of Episodes but otherwise find themselves enduring the same Hollywood nightmare. Again. And again. And again.

Pucks star Matt LeBlanc (playing an unflattering version of himself) finds himself facing multiple dilemmas after losing half of his multimillion fortune. Should he sell his private plane, remarry his ex to cut down on his alimony payments or agree to do a terrible new quiz show “Beat The Box” with his hated ex-boss Merc Lapidus (Pankow, great)? Or would recording a sex tape with one of his co-stars or attending the birthday party of a malevolent but wealthy foreign dictator offer a solution? Carol (Perkins), meanwhile, finds herself sleeping with her boss again, while Bev and Sean find themselves at the heart of a bidding war over their new script The Opposite Of Us.

Like the show within the show Pucks, some may be surprised that Episodes has made it to four series (indeed, a fifth, somewhat incredibly, is already on the way). It has its strong points: Matt LeBlanc is generally a hoot and there’s a good chemistry between Greig and Kathleen Rose Perkins, the latter’s character Carol somehow providing a link between the insincere corporate world represented by Merc and new boss Helen Basch (Andrea Savage) and the more human world of Sean and Bev.

But generally this is increasingly tired stuff. Episodes peaked during its second series. Now a whole scene is based around the fact that Bev and Sean inadvertently choose to wear similar shirts one morning. Ha ha. “A brilliant, laugh-out-loud comedy…and a hilarious romantic comedy” this is not. There is no genuine romance at all and little hilarity.

In fairness, it’s never actually terrible either and occasionally is still quite amusing. But Episodes has clearly had its day.  Presumably the fact that it is returning for a fifth series owes itself to the fact that it has been far better received in the US than it has in the UK.

Episodes:  Series 4 DVD

Starring: Matt LeBlanc, Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan, Kathleen Rose Perkins, John Pankow

Extras: Blooper Reel

9 episodes

Release date: July 13th 2015

RRP: £20.42

BBC Worldwide

Matt LeBlanc as himself, Tamsin Greig as Beverly Lincoln and Stephen Mangan as Sean Lincoln in EPISODES (Season 3, episode 3) - Photo: Des Willie/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: episodes_303_B5012

DVD review: Friday Night Dinner Series 2

FND

Friday Night Dinner: Season 2

2entertain

If you’ve never seen Friday Night Dinner before, lucky you: you are in for a treat.

Robert Popper’s sitcom has a laughably simple premise. A middle-aged  Jewish couple Martin and Jackie Goodman (Paul Ritter and sitcom veteran Tamsin Greig) are joined every Friday evening for dinner by their two twenty-something sons Adam and Jonny (Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal).

That’s really all there is to it. And it’s hilarious.

Much of the humour comes from the relentless silliness of Adam and Jonny, who in the first episode find themselves engaged in a virtual house civil war over Adam’s childhood toy bunny “Buggy”. The duo later engage in a further feud when it emerges Jonny is having an affair with an older woman at work.

Yet juvenile though they are, the Goodman sons are at least still on Planet Earth. The funniest characters are the eccentrics, notably Paul Ritter’s Dad. Occasionally deaf, incapable of keeping his shirt on for an entire episode, prone to hiding in his shed or telling poor jokes (“a lovely bit of squirrel, love!”) and often seemingly oblivious to hygiene or indeed any external events, he is a brilliant comic creation.

The same could also be said of the Goodmans’ truly bonkers next door neighbour, Jim, played splendidly in ludicrously large glasses by another comedy veteran, Mark Heap. Perpetually turning up at the door during dinner, partly to angle for some food himself, partly because he is clearly besotted with family matriarch Jackie (Greig), Jim is always accompanied by his dog Wilson, who he actually appears to be terrified of. Heap is every bit as great in this role as he was as the reclusive artist Brian in 1990s sitcom, Spaced or indeed the sexually frustrated Doctor Adam Statham in Noughties comedy, Green Wing.

And that’s just the main cast. Support comes from “Horrible Grandma” (who insists on bringing her own turkey in a bag for Christmas Dinner), “Auntie” Val, Nan and her truly terrifying octogenarian boyfriend Mr. Morris: a man obsessed with “slanderers” (“I will not be slandered!”) and prone to pulling light fittings out of the wall during his frequent fits of rage.

A truly classic comedy, this has taken its time getting to DVD (it was first shown nearly two years’ ago). The third series was broadcast on Channel 4 just this summer. It cannot come to DVD soon enough.

Special Features:

Six episodes plus the 2012 Christmas Special

Series 1 Recap (This is not actually really necessary and won’t really fill you in if you’ve forgotten or not seen the first series anyway)

Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew Featurette