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I TALK Episodes (Series 3)

Ten years on from the final episode of hit sitcom Friends, one particular friend is still going strong and regularly appears on our television screens, and that's Matt LeBlanc. And no, I'm not talking about Joey - the spin-off which didn't quite hit the mark, but rather Episodes, in which he plays an exaggerated version of himself and is about to return for a third series.

Since bursting onto our screens in January 2011, Episodes has been adored by audiences on both sides of the atlantic, helped by the fact that the series is a co-production between Showtime in America and Hat Trick and the BBC in the UK. So it's no wonder really that the series already has a fourth commissioned before the third has even gone out, and I reckon having Episodes written and created by the man behind the world's favourite sitcom, Friends, David Crane has certainly helped.


Episodes also stars British actors Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan who play Beverley and Sean, a happily married couple from Britain who arrive in Hollywood to remake their hit sitcom, Lyman's Boys which quickly turns into Pucks!, and Richard Griffiths is replaced by Matt LeBlanc.


So what was once a sitcom about about a school teacher turns into one about a hockey coach, and Episodes follows Beverley, Sean and Matt as they set about making Pucks! as well as exploring their rather colourful personal lives.Beverley and Sean soon end up unhappy in their marriage and as a result sleep with other people. In the new series they reunite, but moving on from what happened isn't going to be easy.


And Matt, whilst playing an exaggerated version of himself, is not a million miles away from Joey from Friends.


At the end of the second series, a lot of skeletons came out of the closet, affairs were uncovered left right and centre, and this all ended in a massive fight between Merc Lapidus (John Pancow) and Matt LeBlanc. The reason for the fight? Matt had been having an affair with Merc's wife - again, do you see what I mean about Matt not being a million miles from Joey?


The fight ends with Matt's shoulder being popped out of its joint and the first episode of series three takes place the morning after that fateful night. Merc has lost his job as the network executive. Matt spends most of the series wearing a sling and I mentioned earlier, Beverley and Sean are giving their marriage another go.


One of my favourite moments in the new series is in the first episode, when Matt is stopped by the police for drinking under the influence. When he arrives at the police station, he's greeted with the usual "Hey Joey" and the officer on the front desk tells Matt that his "...sister played the nurse on the one where Rachel has a baby" To which Matt responds with, "She did? That's great! Say hi for me."


And then things get, shall we say, a little awkward as Matt is sure they're going to let him off his DUI charge and when he's asked for a photograph, Matt responds with - "Sure do you want one of all of us together or...?" - Sorry to break it to you Matt, but in fact it was your mugshot they were after, not a cell selfie.


With such a dramatic end to the second series I'm really pleased the writers have decided to set the third series the morning after the end of the second, as opposed to what some comedies do and set it a month or more after.


This helps give a sitcom longevity and tell an overarching story, something which worked incredibly well for Friends, and I'm sure is down to having David Crane behind Episodes.

Although the new series has only just started, I'm already looking forward to the final episode, just so I can have a rough idea of what to expect for the fourth series, which starts filming in August.


I really enjoy Episodes and look forward to when it's on, and I think the chemistry between the three main characters - Beverley, Sean and of course Matt - is just right and what's great, is being able to see Matt play someone other than Joey... even if Matt isn't a million miles away! I love the way in which after all these years Matt is able to laugh and play along with all the Friends references in the script and when it comes down to it, isn't afraid of taking the piss out of himself.


Matt has done many interviews for series three and I've seen the same questions crop up time and time again - "Will Friends ever come back? Would you play Joey again? Will there be a Friends movie? - and the answer to all those is always "No." - but some journalists thought better of asking about Friends coming back, opting for a more original "Will we see any of the Friends cast cropping up in Episodes?" - an idea Matt hasn't thought about but is not against as he knows they all really enjoy the show.


After all, there was that one moment in the last series where Matt rang up each of the other Friends to ask them to appear in Pucks! - so far none of them have agreed to... but there's time! I for one would really like to see a cameo or two from the likes of Jennifer Aniston or David Schwimmer.


So if you're a big fan of Matt LeBlanc but haven't yet watch Episodes, I strongly suggest that you do. You're bound to enjoy it as much as I do and even if you're not Matt's biggest fan, Episodes really has a great supporting cast from both sides of the atlantic. Basically, watch Episodes because it's really really good.


Episodes airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on BBC Two

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