Episodes Final Season reflections
Comedy series often have greater difficulty coming to a successful conclusion than dramas. This was a constant issue particularly on network TV, where hit series are almost inevitably kept on past their expiration date. The argument can definitely be made that Big Bang Theory and Modern Family have been kept on the air far too long, Seinfeld and Friends were running on fumes when they got to their end, and even lesser gems like Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother were wheezing by the end. One would think that one could avoid the issue on basic cable when there’s more control, but such is rarely the case with Showtime, which kept its big hits Nurse Jackie and Weeds on the air way too long, and canceled gems like United States of Tara before they could come to a satisfactory end.
Which brings us to Episodes. A brilliant metacomedy built on the ephemeral idea of just how nasty the people who run TV can be, the argument could just as easily have been made that Showtime kept in on a little too long. Certainly when the disastrous Pucks finally was cancelled midway through Season 4, you could have made the argument that there was simply nothing more than Matt could do disgrace himself.
You’d have been wrong. After going from the hilariously awful moment when he was giving on contestant on his series ‘preferential treatment’, Matt’s career actually began to take off, demonstrating that Matt was an even bigger prick when he’s successful. He shanghaied Sean and Beverly from the sinking ship that was their own TV series (though really, they wanted to jump) then had them come to a ‘pitch session’ at his ranch, where his contribution was his idea of a show called ‘Whores’. Naturally, Netflix was doing one, but Matt ‘just liked whores so much.” Even what should have been a dark them when Matt’s father died (inevitable considering the passing of Alex Rocco) turned into something verging on farce when Matt’s mother and his father’s mistress ended up feuding over what was going to be done with his ashes. (Mrs. LeBlanc: “What am I supposed to do with the coffin?!” Matt: “I don’t know. Just stick it in the garage. You’re going to need it eventually.” Even the sentimental moment when Matt was about to scatter his father’s ashes ended up being — well, scattered- when he suffered blowback and got covered with them.
The last two installments basically showed Matt at his worse — which is to say, what we expect — when first he demanded a producer and creators credit for the series that Sean and Beverly wrote, which led to a bawling out on the Home Shopping Network, which was resolved, until Matt passed on the pilot. Then Sean and Beverly gave a marvelous grilling in which they (correctly) for everything that went wrong for them since they came to Hollywood. (“That you were on a show called Friends is so beyond ironic!!” should go into one of the great lines of TV history). Sean and Beverly finally regrouped, wrote another pilot based on their horrid existence Hollywood, and Matt, in his fashion, apologized (with a plush piece of excrement), which led to, of course, another fight that I really wish the promos for this series hadn’t given away.
What’s perhaps the most surprising about Episodes was how happily this series ended. Sean and Beverly finally got their dream project produced — it was called Episodes had the same opening credits as the series, and somehow managed to get Kenneth Brannagh, Emma Thompson and Isla Fisher in the leads. Carol actually finally made up with the last boss who ended up firing her, and it actually looked their was a chance for happiness there (though in classic Episodes fashion, it took place in a women’s room after she had just thrown up). Even Merc (Jon Pankow) the ultimate Hollywood sleaze, somehow managed to end up getting the girl, the literally ageless Morning (Mricea Monroe, who starred in the Pilot) Yet somehow, there was a level of fittingness to this is well. This is broadcast TV, where everything works out in the end. You figure the series will probably crash like the last one, that Merc will end up cheating on Morning and Carol will probably fall for boss number six. But that’s what happens after the credits roll.
The misbehavior and raunchiness of Episodes have it, arguably, Showtime’s funniest and most consistent TV series over the past decade. One could complain that the seasons were often far too short, but that’s more of an effect of the British influence on the show. I’m really going to miss it now that’s its gone, and I’m really sorry that more people will probably watch a single episode of Man with a Plan than Episodes entire five-season run. Oh, well. There’s always streaming.
My score: 5 stars.