There are some improvements in this episode, largely the fact that Merc is only in a few scenes and is in a slightly more restrained mood, which really increases the impact of his jokes and shrugs. Now, he seems more of a danger rather than a silly caricature. We've also happily skipped ahead from the casting of LeBlanc to the shooting of the pilot, sparing us from the re-writing of the script, the casting of the principals, etc., which I was worried we'd have to sit through. And the structure of the episode isn't bad, as an enchanted Sean goes on an adventure to Las Vegas with Matt, while Beverly seethes on set.
As Todd mentioned in his review of the pilot, the real achievement of this episode is that it lets Matt win the argument over whether the female lead should be a lesbian, and it lets him make an argument that makes a lot of sense. U.K. shows, especially comedies, run in six-episode seasons (they call them "series," the madmen) and tend to wrap up after a few years (only, often, to return for an interminable amount of Christmas specials), with a nice little complete storyline: Think of the U.K. Office. But the American network format of 22 episodes per season makes a direct port a very silly idea: Think of how Jim and Pam got together after two seasons (forget the first, abbreviated six-episode season) on the U.S. Office.
So, Matt argues, it's ridiculous to have his character pine for a gay librarian. By season three, the audience will be saying, "How many times can this guy hit on the dyke?" Sean is convinced, and the moment feels right. But I'm slightly concerned about the 25-odd minutes that lead up to that. Matt takes Sean for a spin in his ridiculous car, then they fly by jet to Vegas, eat sensational food, go to a club, get all kinds of freebies, and meet Lindsay Lohan et al. Then, Matt shows Sean his enormous penis. So, are we supposed to be thinking that Matt has seduced Sean with glitz and celebrity penis, just to turn him against Beverly and make the show more silly and American?
This is what I just can't figure out about Episodes. Are we supposed to take Pucks! seriously at all? On the one hand, it looks faintly ridiculous, and the scene we see being shot isn't anything above standard sitcommery. On the other, the montage of the table read this episode seemed to suggest things were going okay, and even if Merc is losing interest, Carol sticks up for them. And Matt, we already know, isn't after money, he's after quality. He wants a hit so that people won't mock him anymore. It's hard to know just how big of a monster is being created here.
The character of Beverly doesn't exactly help. Greig is doing a fine job, and I liked her final confrontation scene with Matt where she's drawn to his bulging crotch. But the character is already coming off as pretty shrew-y, even when she's obviously in the right. The reason being, even if their great art is being tampered with, the audience is just naturally going to take Sean's side in things. From our perspective, they're already rich and respected in the UK, and the worst case scenario with Pucks! is that they'll have to go back home, which seems to be what Beverly wants anyway. Why not just enjoy the ride, being a showrunner and living in a ridiculous mansion, as Sean seems content to do?
Beverly gets some humanizing material at the beginning of the episode (having sex with Sean) and the end (reconciling with him in bed again, mocking his designer clothes). But basically, the rest of the time, she's seething, and things only seem to be getting worse in her eyes. Again, no slight against Greig, but when you have Matt winning a lot of the creative arguments and having most of the fun on the show, there's really not much she can do with her character.
But all the mystery of how bad Matt is supposed to be exactly is part of the fun; with four episodes left, I'm looking forward to seeing whether he turns out to be nefarious or not. But right now, I'm guessing not. The writers are treating his caricature of himself with kid gloves: Oh no, he has a massive penis! He makes reasoned arguments about the differences in U.K. and U.S. TV that win the audience over! He's a rich, seasoned gourmand who speaks Thai! God, he's really sending himself up here. But LeBlanc is good in the role nonetheless that his scenes tend to be the highlight of the show so far.
One more word on Merc: Once again, his big comic setpiece, loudly eating the melon in the background of the table read, just fell flat, although it did carry a slight air of menace. But I like the portrayal of his generally coddling nature towards Sean and Beverly when he sees them and his indifference towards the show otherwise. That feels more true-to-life. Fickleness seems to dominate in Hollywood, as any insider studio gossip or reporting seems to confirm. His interest in Carol's nipples seem to be keeping the whole boat afloat at this point.
- "It's like being in bed with Noel Coward!" "I suspect it's nothing like being in bed with Noel Coward."
- Greig and Mangan had a nice, easy chemistry in the opening sex scene. "No dawdling. Two minutes tops." "Five." "Five! Are we doing it twice?"
- Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe) is a new character this week, and the gag about her appears to be that she's ageless. Which is kinda funny, I guess.
- Only three people own Matt's car. "Me, the Sultan of Brunei, and some drug guy."
- In costumes, Beverly doesn't like a red-and-white striped shirt for Morning. "She's a librarian, not someone who has relatives in Whoville." At least she gets to win that argument.
- Matt speaks Thai. "Just the basic stuff, please, thank you, how much for the girls."
- "We hung out for a while, then he showed me his cock, then we flew home."
- "He just hauled it out in the middle of the club?"