Reviewing the end of “Episodes” and Ranking the Seasons

By | October 30, 2017

It’s extremely difficult to rank the five seasons of Showtime’s recently departed “Episodes” partly because the seasons are fairly consistent in quality (you might argue that not enough changes over the course of the five seasons spread out over seven years) and also because I suspect I might be the only person who even watched the final season…

The “Worst” Season: Season Two…I’ll state again that all the seasons are fairly close in quality, so it’s not easy to pick a best or worst but I think this season—in which the show-within-a-show/prison “Pucks” has started production but the central trio are barely speaking thanks to Matt LeBlanc (his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of himself is the series’s best asset) sleeping with showrunner Beverly, who’s married to co-showrunner Sean—suffers from having too much Merc (the loathsome show business executive played very broadly by John Pankow) and romantic subplots that we pretty much already know the endings to (which affair will be revealed, who will end up with who, etc.). Grade: B-

Season Four…This season is mostly about “Pucks” (a deliberately bad sitcom the main characters are shackled to) getting a “surprise” spite renewal mostly so LeBlanc can’t work on a better show, and the fatigue most of the main characters are feeling bleeds into the series as many of the plots feel like reruns. One of the best subplots is LeBlanc getting scammed by his Bernie Madoff-like money manager and having to worry about money, but too much of it feels like passing time, and you begin to wonder why the fourth and fifth seasons weren’t consolidated into one since it’s essentially two farewell seasons stretched out. Grade: B

Season Five (and Series Finale Review)…It’s a predictable final lap that probably could’ve sufficed as a two-hour movie or few extra episodes tacked-on to season four, but since all non-broadcast shows that pass three years have to have a cash-in on a “farewell season” now, this is about as good as you could expect from something that no one is that invested in anymore. Since “Pucks” is officially gone, it allowed a few new professional plot-lines—like the hilariously degrading endurance game show “The Box”—to breathe and the expected revelation that the central trio’s next show-within-a-show is an “Episodes”-like sitcom with LeBlanc playing himself. Grade: B

Season One…For me, it’s really a coin-toss between this and season three for the title of “best” and this is arguably the series’s high point. It’s safe to say that if you don’t like this premise-introducing season, it’s doubtful you’ll really enjoy any “Episodes” since the jokes here are as fresh as they’ll ever be. Grade: B+

The “Best” Season: Season Three…All of the central trio are friends for the first time in the series’s run—creating an appealingly unlikely crew—and this season is mercifully low on Merc and an overabundance of romantic subplots. Most of the drama is supplied by the series’s best non-lead character: Chris Diamantopoulos’s literally insane network executive Castor Sotto, whose psychotic ramblings are mistaken for alpha-business corporate “genius” (you can practically imagine the CNBC-types blowing this guy). Although I don’t believe for two-seconds that Beverly would repeatedly (and annoyingly) turn down network offers to get a show made, this is my pick for the show’s funniest, most lively, and most enjoyable season. Grade: A-

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