Posted in: Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on June 5th, 2012
A successful writing team, who also happen to be a married couple, are the creators of an award-winning show in the UK that has just completed after four seasons. An American network wishes to create a US version of the show. The couple are flown to LA, put up in a lavish mansion and are introduced to the Hollywood method of creating television…and it nearly destroys them.
Even before they arrive in LA, this pair begins sinking in a quagmire of big-time Hollywood lies and bluffs that drive them to losing their lead actor, a respected, elderly British man, in exchange for Matt LeBlanc, converting their program from the story of a headmaster at a boarding school to that of a handsome hockey coach who is chasing after a sexy librarian, and generally sacrificing all they hold dear (both creative and personally) in order to survive the shoot of a single pilot episode (which, by the way, seems to be the most arduous and lengthy studio shoot I have ever witnessed…it lasts the entire season of Episodes!).
This series feels like Extras with more grace under fire when becoming jaded with the film and TV industry, or Curb Your Enthusiasm with less belly-aching awkwardness. Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig are familiar faces to fans of BBC comedy, and handle the lead roles with the perfect amount of typically British wit and charm. Matt LeBlanc will raise a few eyebrows with his surprisingly decent performance as himself, albeit a presumably puffed up, manipulative jerk version of himself.
As this seven-episode (a number more familiar to those who watch British series’) progresses, the story arc becomes less about the troubles with dealing with American Tv producers and more about the relationships as major jealousies arise between the married writing duo. This sapped a lot of the fun out of the show. Hollywood can never take enough jabs and this show did not need a melodrama about potential infidelity to avoid giving it these knocks.
Widescreen 16:9. Every overly polished set, be it for the show or the shows within the show, all looks very clean and clear. The California does not bleach out or create an orange hue, like it does other programs.
I feel the need to gripe about the use of green screen. I find it a bit too noticeable as some shots look a little too unnatural, and the lighting choices are a bit poor and amateurish looking at points.
English 5.1 Surround and 2.0 and Spanish 2.0 Stereo are available. The droll wit of our lead characters is not lost in this soundtrack. The theme song and it’s jazzy variations, are cleanly repeated throughout every single episode.
Photo Gallery: A very small handful of pics that allows us to see some crew amongst the cast members.
Biographies: Simple bios of our lead cast. The same info that shows up in the first paragraph of IMDB or similar site.
If you insert the disc into your computer you are able to access a contest (which will become an incredibly dated feature for anyone that sees or purchases this disc after 2012) and sampler episodes of other Showtime programs: Borgias, Dexter and House of Lies.
This show is clearly designed to feel like a BBC series dwelling within an American setting somehow. It is a tad bit meta in that sense. It succeeds migrating comedy that relies more on wit and timing than canned laughter, but it falters when exchanging fun for negative, life-changing moments for the characters we are cheering for, and not giving us satifactory justification for such moments other than an excuse to rattle the audience.