The Telefile
<i>Episodes</i>: This Season Premiere’s Truest Hollywood Story

Episodes -- Showtime's answer to Entourage -- premiered last year to solid, but unexceptional reviews and ratings, which is only appropriate since it's a solid, but unexceptional show. But the void for behind-the-scenes of Hollywood comedies created by Entourage's departure from the airwaves and a surprise Golden Globe win for Matt LeBlanc (who plays... Matt LeBlanc) convinced the network to give it a second season, which started up last night.

Picking up four months after the first season finale, in which transplanted British TV writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) found their marriage imperiled after Sean discovered Bev's accidental and unwanted fling with Matt -- the star of the dumbed-down American remake of their hit English series. The couple has since separated, but still continue to work alongside each other at the office, which naturally results in lots of awkward tension. Another source of awkward tension? Network programming head Carol's (Kathleen Rose Perkins) ongoing affair with her boss Merc (John Pankow), who is married to an absurdly nice (and completely blind) bee activist. Honestly, all of the romantic couplings and uncouplings are the show's weakest elements since they come off as pure TV. What keeps us watching are the brief glimpses it provides into actual Hollywood reality. So every week, we're going to single out a specific scene or storyline that feels the most authentic. Call it Episodes' Truest Hollywood Stories.

For this inaugural edition, we're going to tackle a subject that we're familiar with ourselves having dispensed a number of them: bad reviews. As the season begins, the show-within-the-show Pucks is about to air its pilot episode. In the run-up to the premiere, the first reviews have hit the papers and the web and boy are they terrible. "Pucks sucks!" screams the New York Post, while Entertainment Weekly zings "LeBlanc shoots a LeBlank." All of these terrible notices are being closely read by Sean, while Bev hovers above his shoulder, not really wanting to hear them but unable to tear herself away. Even though both writers are aware that their show isn't exactly Arrested Development or Fawlty Towers, they're surprised by the level of vitriol being spewed at Pucks and, by extension, at them. As Sean puts it: "It's not like we're punching Elmo. It's just a show."

It's easy to imagine similar scenes playing out in writers' rooms around Los Angeles the morning of any big premiere, particularly when the notices are stridently negative. (One imagines that the Episodes writers probably blanched at the some of the more pointedly unenthusiastic reviews their show received when it debuted last year.) The way those words eat away at Sean and Bev's confidence as the day goes on -- despite all of the industry types around insisting that they shouldn't care about the critics -- also rings true. Fortunately, Pucks' premiere winds up scoring with viewers, thus injecting the creators with the Nielsen cure and restoring some bounce to their step. At the same time, both Sean and Bev still know that there's some truth to the reviews; Pucks isn't a great show and they won't be truly able to enjoy its success until they're totally happy with the show's quality. Those must be the same feelings the 2 Broke Girls writers wrestle with everyday...

Truest Hollywood Lines:
"Do you guys ever drink coffee? Because this company sent me like a dozen free coffee makers." "Why?" "I dunno. Who cares? They're free." -- Matt, explaining the concept of swag to Beverly.
"No one cares about TV reviews. They hated most of the crap we've got on the air and people still watch it." -- Carol, reassuring Sean about the bad reviews.
"Getting jerked off while you're watching yourself on TV? Actors work their whole lives for that." -- Matt, on the unique benefits of stardom.
"I got two offers this year, this one and they wanted me for the kid in that talking dog show." -- One of the show-within-the-show's young stars, describing an all-too realistic idea for a network sitcom.
"I once did this Fox show about these three girls living together. I was the one with the smaller tits." -- Bombshell Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe) describing what we're pretty sure was an actual Fox series at one point. girls club, right? Or maybe Babes?

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