With so many shows packed into “peak TV” schedules, even the most ardent viewer can lose track of episodes — or even an entire series named “Episodes.”
The comedy starring Matt LeBlanc — who won a Golden Globe for essentially spoofing himself — returns for a fifth and final season Sunday night on CraveTV.
This cheeky send-up of Hollywood is an example of the new borderless business of television. The series is set in Los Angeles, shot in London, and commissioned by both the US and the UK.
“I have an American career and I didn’t have to go to America to do it,” says Stephen Mangan, who plays mop-haired British writer-producer Sean Lincoln on the series.
The London-born, Cambridge-educated Mangan says he has nothing against America. “I just have a young family and it’s very hard to ship them all out.”
Prior to “Episodes,” the 49-year-old was a familiar face on the British telly thanks to a string of popular, short-run comedies, including “I’m Alan Partridge” and “Green Wing.”
The final seven episodes of “Episodes” were shot more than a year ago. In fact, so much time has passed since the fourth season of “Episodes” aired that Mangan was able to shoot a whole other series that has since come and gone: “Houdini & Doyle.”
The historical drama had a three-country production connection: Canada’s Shaftesbury, as well as British and American producers. Episodes of “Houdini & Doyle” were shot in the north of England as well as in Toronto.
Mangan is paired on “Episodes” with fellow British actor Tamsin Greig, who portrays Beverly Lincoln, Sean’s wife and writing partner.
When “Episodes” began, their characters came to America to adapt their British hit about a school headmaster, only to see American network executives twist it into a series about a hockey coach (played by LeBlanc). That show-within-a-show was called “Pucks.”
Mangan says he’d never even seen hockey until he attended a Maple Leafs game in Toronto about a year ago while shooting “Houdini & Doyle.”
“There were people fighting and punching each other so I assume it was a hockey game.”
As the final season of “Episodes” begins, LeBlanc has found a new career as a game show host. The bad news is he can probably kiss his acting career goodbye. His former sitcom writers, the Lincolns, are still stuck in America, this time working for a British rival who is destroying a new show they created, “The Opposite of Us.”
“The real strength of the show is the writing,” says Mangan, giving full credit to former “Friends” co-creator David Crane and his writing partner Jeffrey Klarik (“Mad About You”).
LeBlanc, who worked in a co-hosting gig on the British motoring series “Top Gear” between seasons of “Episodes,” has already moved on to his next series. The second season of LeBlanc’s family sitcom “Man with a Plan” is scheduled to return in mid-season.
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.