Episode 2 - Episode 2
28 March 2012
Episodes - 102 - Episode Two
Synopsis: Sean and Beverley meet with Matt LeBlanc and both sides are convinced to go ahead with him as the lead. All three attend a dinner party at Merc's house and get to know each other a little better.
The Good: There's a good show in here somewhere. Right now it still feels like two different shows trying to exist at the same time. There are times when it goes broad, there are times when it tries to be real. The edges where the two meet are actually promising.
Matt LeBlanc is a reassuring figure, he's so familiar that you almost don't need to know much about him to get into what he is saying. I don't know where the show is going to end up with him as a character. In this episode I rather liked the way he was portrayed because he followed his fairly selfish desires in a believable way. At first he is utterly indifferent to the Lincolns. He knows nothing about them or their show and treats them as such. Once his agent convinces him to take the part he watches the show and likes it. Suddenly he is inspired, offers to help the Lincolns out, works out that he wasn't their first choice and turns on the charm. Then suddenly Beverley angers him by implying that he is a bit stupid and heartless for laughing at children with tourettes. So he turns on her and pushes to get himself cast as a sports coach to ensure the role is better for him and Beverley will have to rewrite the entire show.
That back and forth implied that LeBlanc might actually be a good character for the show. If he is presented as occasionally an ally and occasionally an obstacle then he could be a fairly authentic version of himself and still play the elements of Joey Tribbiani which are going to be hard to avoid. That interplay with Beverley also helped expose more likeable parts of her. Her mild flirtation with him was as likeable as she has seen and the snort she gave when he flattered her over her looks was spot on. She also showed admirable morality by standing up for the toureettes children and a sense of decency.
That moral stand helped contrast her with Sean who clearly wants to be a Hollywood success story and is happier playing along with the charade. In his interaction with Carol (where he discovers she is sleeping with Merc) you can begin to see him having a life in LA and bonding more quickly with his fellow underlings who all cower in Merc's wake. The squirming he has to do between his wife and potential success leads more naturally to good jokes as well (see Comic Highlight).
The Bad: Where the broad and the narrow don't meet is where this falls down.
Merc is a very broad character at this stage. His deeply inappropriate jokes about his blind wife did not work. He was so crass about her condition that those scenes headed straight into outlandish sit com territory and made it hard to enjoy the reactions of the Lincolns who were playing it like it was awkward reality. Similarly when LeBlanc betrays Beverley to get what he wants in front of Merc there was a hint of "Joey being evil" to proceedings which needs to be stamped on quickly.
The Lincolns drove home angrily arguing about this new turn of events and suddenly the show was back to being very serious. They were quite convincing as a couple dealing with stress. When Sean asks her "Just once could you not make everything harder?" there is a very real feeling middle class English silence. Suddenly you can see the show doing too convincing a job of showing us how their marriage might break down on this adventure. But before that can sink in they arrive at the gates to their street and have to deal with troublesome custodian Wallace. Beverley lets rip a long stream of expletives at him until he opens the gate and jarringly we are back in a sit com.
Comic Highlight: Carol inadvertently reveals the awkward truth that she is sleeping with Merc. Sean returns to find Matt and Beverley talking and is determined to keep his mouth shut. However things have turned very awkward in that conversation because Matt reveals he found a documentary about tourettes children funny. Sean tries to change the subject but fails and in desperation and hope he blurts out "Carol's having an affair with Merc!"
Conclusion: If the show can steer carefully toward one of its two tones, there could be something good here.
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