Very rarely does a television show have the decency to wrap up the series in a timely fashion. Most choose to alienate their audience with shoddy, lifeless episodes and tired or ridiculous plots in hopes of prolonging the life of their ‘baby.’ It’s times like that where we should take a page out of Stephen King’s book and “kill your darlings.”
That being said, Californication’s seventh season, airing in April 2014, will be it’s last. While I wish I could say it remains an untarnished series, I just can’t – but at least they were able to pull the plug themselves. What started as a heartfelt series about a tortured writer trying to get his wife and daughter back together as a family has turned into a circus of attempted shock value, almost insulting stereotypes, and a disintegrating interest from the audience for any of the core cast’s issues. It’s upsetting to see one of this decade’s most recognizable anti-heroes fall even further than the bar floor he was passed out on.
It’s been an intense season of Episodes full of issues that manifested themselves in painful yet hilarious ways. On Sunday’s season finale, all those issues came to a head. The issues are starting to repair themselves in a way that’s very ungraceful, yet very funny. It worked quite well. The episode opened with another one of Beverly and Carole’s exercise running sessions. This time, it wasn’t quite as repetitive, but the dynamic still isn’t very interesting. Nonetheless, it did move the story forward. As Carole is venting about her job offer from Elliot Salad, she starts to realize she could never betray Merc, which doesn’t seem to make much sense considering he does very little to contribute to their relationship and has been a terrible boss.
Over the course of the entire season, Merc wanted to get away with immoral behavior. Carole watched it happen because she loved him. Carole especially laments the fact that he is still married to Jamie, who Carole considers to be a “saint.” Beverly seems hesitant to concur that Jamie is a saint, but then admits that she knows about Jamie’s affair with Matt. The exercise session is a little more interesting than usual at this point. Instead of going over the same issues with Sean and Beverly as they do on every run, the focus shifts to gossip about Jamie and Matt. Now, the viewers have a reason to pay attention. Carole insists that she has to tell Merc about the affair, but Beverly begs her not to for fear of losing her job and Sean. Carole finally agrees to keep quiet after Beverly threatens to tell Merc about Carole’s meeting with Elliot. There was probably a better way to reveal the details of Matt’s affair to Carole. The scene was sloppily written with too much dialogue.
In the first season of Episodes, the Lincolns’ marriage fell apart. Throughout this season, their communication has been awkward, yet they certainly bond over work and their mutual disappointment in Matt. As Sunday’s episode opens, Matt wakes up with Labia at his side and immediately puts his hands over his eyes in despair.. His remorse shows that he can show human qualities, but also has a personality that Sean and Beverly feel compelled to chastise repeatedly. Sean, Beverly, and Matt are able to enjoy each other’s company, even though at the main reason is to point out Matt’s shortcomings.
It’s very clear that Matt cannot take control of his own life. Sean goes into Matt’s dressing room and sees that Labia is in the room. He walks out quickly and calls for security, only to have Matt tell him that he brought her into work. Once again, Matt cannot understand the consequences of his actions. Sean jokingly reflects fondly on the memories of Matt ruing the Lincoln’s marriage. Sean and Beverly seem to have a civil and enjoyable relationship within the work setting. It’s been enjoyable to watch the Lincolns’ relationship evolve, but it hasn’t been smooth.
Episodes doesn’t have to have a complicated story in order to be funny. Sometimes the most innocuous issue exaggerated to the point where the story works extremely well. This was the case on Sunday night. The episode opens with Sean and Beverly in a meeting with Merc and Carole. Merc and Carole are their usual passive-aggressive selves and try to act as pleasantly as they can toward the Lincolns. Of course, Sean and Beverly know something is wrong. Carole asks them how they think the show is going even though they clearly don’t care about Sean and Beverly’s perspective. Beverly is smart enough to know that Merc and Carole are only asking so they can say what they think about the show.
Merc and Carole finally reveal that they are concerned that Matt has gained weight. Beverly seems hesitant to respond at first and then says that he might have put on a couple of pounds. This might simply be to appease the network, but it is unclear. Sean more obviously disagrees. He says that he doesn’t see any change in Matt’s weight. Beverly says playfully that Sean doesn’t notice those types of things. This behavior between Sean and Beverly is very curious. After Sean halted their sexual encounter at the end of last week’s show, it’s surprising they are able to so fluidly act like a couple and playfully chide each other. Commenting on personal flaws is not common for a professional relationship, especially in a joking matter. It is hard to believe that they are so good at putting personal feelings aside. For some reason, they prefer to deny that they want to give their marriage another try. Of course, Sean is terrible at suppressing his pain and Beverly does not even try to hide it. The Lincolns’ dynamic proves that sometimes things are not better left unsaid.
This week, Episodes was very blunt and was filled with both serious and absurd conflicts. The show opens with Matt entering his house late at night to find his stalker, Labia topless in his kitchen. He is shocked that she even found a way into his house. Labia has a very calm response to Matt’s anger. She is very aware that Matt does not like her, but she does not care. She is just excited to tell him that she made cookies. Labia still thinks of Matt as a childhood crush who kept her spirits up when she had cancer. She uses her cancer as a way to get sympathy from Matt. Matt tries to calm her down somewhat nicely. He explains that she had cancer, but she survived and is now healthy. Under the circumstances, Matt has no problem screaming at her to get out of his house. She then says that she would die for Matt. He acknowledges, almost regrettably, that she did not die. Finally, Matt threatens to call the police. Labia promptly puts her clothes on and leaves. The beginning was not particularly relevant to the rest of the episode, but it did a great job setting up Matt’s bitter attitude that he would have for the rest of the episode.
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After the end of last week’s Episodes, it looked as though Sean and Beverly’s relationship may be on the mend. However, the show is quick to demonstrate that none of the characters’ relationships are even remotely healthy. Sunday’s episode began with Matt and Sean in a diner as Sean starts staring at an attractive female customer behind them Sean urges Matt not to turn around. Of course, Matt proceeds to do so immediately. He then notices that the woman is Labia, his internet stalker. He can’t afford to be nonchalant as Sean asked. Instead, he is “very chalatnt.” When Matt confronts Labia aggressively, Labia mentions that Sean and her have been in touch on Facebook. Matt had told Sean to “unfriend” her but Sean doesn’t know how. Labia is weirdly accommodating and explains to Sean how to “unfriend” people. She assured Sean that she would help him remove her as a friend by posting instructions on his Facebook wall.
So far this season, Episodes has been enjoyable, but relatively simple. When last week’s episode ended with Merc Lapidus taking a phone call at his own father’s funeral, it’s not surprising that the following episode would be a bit cynical. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t funny. It just got darker than usual. In a way, it’s good for the show. It demonstrates that it can expand its tone. However, those who were looking to laugh without having to think will be disappointed.
The fourth episode of the season opens with Merc and Carole discussing the ratings of Pucks!, which have been steadily declining. This isn’t so much a well directed or well acted scene as much as it is a way to comment that they are in a show about a show. When Carole says that she and Merc are always running into problems with the show’s that are failing, Merc quips rather angrily,”Why don’t we make a show out of it.” This is obviously meant to call attention to the premise of Episodes, but it doesn’t work well. The running joke continues to be the network’s disdain at the success of an unnamed show about a talking dog. It can get a little old, but Episodes’ sense of good and bad television premises should be commended.
Episodes premiered its third show of the season last night. The show continues to provide laughs, even in the most uncomfortable way. The father of network president Merc Lapidus has died and the episode dealt with the awkward ways the Pucks! staff would provide condolences. It was clear how completely inappropriate everyone’s behavior was, which is exaclty what makes it hilarious. There were parts of the show where viewers should not laugh, but they laugh anyway because Episodes runs on cringe comedy. It is a challenge to find humor in the fact that no one cares about someone’s death, yet the show makes it work.
When Lapidus’ father died, everyone’s main concern was appeasing the president of a network and not Lapidus as a person. Everyone in the show is acting selfish and morally questionable. Even so, it never fails to be funny. Their biggest concern is not to make sure Lapidus is happy, but what would be an appropriate thing to send as a condolence. An ongoing joke centers around Matt insisting that a muffin basket is not a big enough gift. He insists on a huge catered dinner, which Sean rejects. Still, there’s a stubbornness to appease Lapidus, or rather conform to “funeral” behavior.
The second season of the Showtime original comedy Episodes premiered on Sunday night and the show continues to be fantastic. The production of a low quality television show generally serves as only a minor plot point, but that’s okay. The main driving force remains the character interaction.
The show opens with a scene of Pucks! being shot. After the scene wraps, Sean and Beverly Lincoln exchange some witty banter and it almost seems like all is forgiven. Then, they say goodbye and head off in separate cars. This was a very cleverly written scene. It kept the viewer guessing and then revealed what appears to be the main conflict of this season: that there is still a struggle for everyone to coexist as colleagues.
The next scene features Beverly and Head of Programming for the network Carole Rance. Beverly still needs to vent about her situation with Sean. The situation is hard for her because it is Sean’s birthday. It is their first one apart and it feels weird to her. Sean has gone from her husband to “some boy who may or may not still like [her].” The interaction between Beverly and Rance is very enjoyable. As much as Beverly hated the idea of Pucks!, she still finds a friend in the process. The relationship is an effective contrast between a neurotic person in crisis and a no-nonsense perspective. Beverly adds that “if [she’s] ever feeling like the craziest person on Earth,” she should have dinner with Rance. The rapport between these two will probably get stronger as the season goes on.