Matt LeBlanc is returning to TV screens on Sunday night — and the early word suggests his new Showtime sitcom is a much more tolerable return than his reviled "Friends" follow-up "Joey." Critics have given a mostly welcome response to "Episodes," in which LeBlanc stars as a vain, shallow version of himself cast in a fictitious show-within-a-show penned by two naive British writers. Will it be one of the first big television hits of the year — and give LeBlanc a second act? (Watch the "Episodes" trailer)
LeBlanc helps this show shine: This "riotously, often scathingly funny showbiz satire" is "easily the best new sitcom of the season," says Robert Bianco at USA Today. And while his Brit co-stars Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan are "delightful imports," the real kudos have to go to LeBlanc for his willingness to laugh at himself. "Take that, 'Joey,' and rest in peace."
"Experience great 'Episodes' of laughter, thanks to LeBlanc"
Too bad he's the only good thing in it: I actually found "Episodes" a "bit of an ordeal," says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. This "angry, unfunny comedy" is too full of bitchy swipes at Hollywood, and not even LeBlanc's "terrific performance" can rescue the show's poor writing and bad jokes. "You will see every single plot development... [and]... every limp punchline" coming several miles away.
"Showtime's 'Episodes' has Matt LeBlanc and a lot of angry, unfunny satire"
Excellent acting can't redeem a tired premise: "Episodes" certainly has its "charms," says Hank Stuever at The Washington Post. British actress Tamsin Greig gives a "grand lead performance," and LeBlanc's work is "laudably wry." But the subject matter — the "vapidness of the Hollywood machine"— has been done to death by Garry Shandling, Larry David, and the boys on "Entourage." In that snarky company, this is merely "so-so."
"Showtime's 'shameless' has a dirty heart, while 'Episodes' has... Joey"