When Episodes returns to BBC2 this Monday none of the characters is very happy. The big problem is the revival of Pucks, the fictional US comedy about an ice hockey team they’re all working on.
Everyone assumed this awful TV ratings dud had bitten the dust, but now Pucks is up and running again, the show’s married British writers Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) have had to return to Los Angeles, a city they loathe.
Pucks’ big Hollywood star Matt Le Blanc hates the show, too, and views it as a terrible blot on his career. Matt then becomes even more despondent in the first episode when he hears his late financial advisor has fleeced him out of a whopping $32m!
“If I’d lost money like that, it would be terrible. I don’t know how I’d react, but I wouldn’t get as drunk as the Matt in the show,” explains the real Matt LeBlanc, who plays an egotistical version of himself in Episodes.
“But making Matt lose $32 million has been really clever, not just for the comical way Matt reacts, but because of it how it serves future plots.
“It would have been difficult to keep Sean, Beverly and Matt in the same room, given the history of Matt having slept with Beverly. So Matt losing a fortune was a great device to get Beverly and Sean to think about their financial future, too, and it keeps them all together.
“There are times when you really feel compassion and have empathy with the characters. I love, however, that there’s sometimes a smart, zany, unforeseen moment in Episodes that makes you just think, ‘I didn’t see that coming!’ These do lead to some very dramatic moments this time around for all the characters.”
It soon emerges that Sean and Beverly have written a new show that every US TV network want to bid millions for. After Matt tells them about his financial woes, he says they’d be mad not to sell their new series to the highest bidder and make a fortune. He, of course, hopes the show might have a role for him…
“By putting together a new TV show, it takes all their relationships forward,” says Matt. “And the irony of Sean and Beverly taking advice from my character is delicious.”
Matt enjoys playing an exaggerated version of himself in Episodes, even though it’s essentially taking the mickey out of him.
“People have said it’s brave, but I don’t look at it as that, I just see it as any other character,” says Matt, 46. “If I were to look at it as playing myself it would get into a very weird area and I’d maybe need to go see a therapist!
“I’ve been asked a lot if the Episodes Matt is really like me and I’d rather leave it a mystery for the audience. Let them believe that that’s really how I am… I’m OK with that.”