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‘Episodes’ Creators, Matt LeBlanc on Making the Finale ‘Surprising and Satisfying at the Same Time’

Variety logo Variety 5/1/2017 Addie Morfoot
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The Tribeca Film Festival came to a close on Sunday and aptly premiered the final installment of Showtime’s “Episodes.” The Emmy-nominated comedy paints a behind-the-scenes picture of the entertainment industry and stars “Friends” alum Matt LeBlanc. The fifth and final season of the series bows on August 20.

After screening episodes one and five, series co-creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, and LeBlanc gave audiences insights into making “Episodes” for the last six years.

Here are nine things we learned from the conversation about the industry-insider series.

— Nothing is off limits. Since the get go, LeBlanc has been game to play a self-absorbed version of himself. “I always said about this project that I don’t mind being the brunt of the joke as long as it’s a really good joke,” the star said.

— The Television Critics Association press tour inspired an episode in Season 5. The not so flattering portrait the show paints of the industry hasn’t been a problem, but LeBlanc joked that, “People come to me all of the time and say, ‘I know who that guy or girl is supposed to be.’ And I say, ‘Yeah. It’s you.’”

— The show’s British couple/writer team — Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig) — are forced to work for Sean’s former partner Tim (Bruce Mackinnon), perhaps the worst showrunner in the history of television. Turns out Tim is someone Klarik has met many times before working on various TV shows. “Tim exists,” he said. “You get stuck in a writers room with him for 10, 12 hours when you could be knocking the s— out of (the script). But Tim has no life. But when you are in a writer’s room you have to be nice. And I don’t play well with others.”

— Klarik co-wrote and directed each of Season 5’s seven episodes. “It’s easier because you don’t have to be nice (to the guest director),” Klarik said. Crane added, “We are also control freaks. We reached a point where it wasn’t fair to (guest) directors.”

— LeBlanc was excited to get back to multi-cam network TV. “The first scene we ever shot (for ‘Episodes’), I was delivering the punch line of this big speech and nobody laughed. I remember thinking, ‘Oh s—. I’ve forgotten how to do this.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait! There is no audience.’ So to be back in front of a studio audience with (“Man With a Plan”) felt like coming home. I like both (single and multi-cam), but I’ve spent so much of my career doing live audience shows that it was really fun to know again if a joke was working or not.

— The bulk of Season 5 was shot in London. The crew only spent five days in Los Angeles. “We had to use a lot of lights and were carting around a lot of palm trees,” Crane said. “And it was a lot cheaper,” Klarik added.

— It took almost as long to write the finale, as it did the pilot. “It was a struggle to figure out how to make it surprising and satisfying at the same time,” Crane said. “How do you put a bow on it, but not have people feel like I saw that coming. That was the biggest challenge. We wrote so many drafts.”

— The short-lived CBS show, “The Class,” created by Klarik, inspired “Episodes.” “After that happened, I said to David, ‘I’ve had it. I don’t want to do TV again.’ Eventually Crane convinced him to use his “rage” creatively.

— The show’s Sean and Beverly are Crane and Klarik, respectively. “We are pretty much them in terms of our world view and how we approach television,” Crane said, before Klarik interrupted — “David thinks the glass is half full. “Right,” said Crane. “And Jeffery thinks the glass is an idiot.”

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