Is it real? Is it not real? Who cares when it’s this funny.
Postmodernism has really been given a turbo boost lately. There has been an observable fixation of giving ostensibly low-brow actors leading (and lauded) work. It’s the kind of work that forces the audience to realize that the actor is both fitting and not fitting for the role. It’s a dichotomous existence that is both satisfying and unnerving. “Is it a joke or is it for real?” asks the audience.
The self-reflectivity of the work ensures that there is a undisclosed contract between viewer and producer to take everything with a pinch of salt. From Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “JCVD” to Ben Stiller’s titular role in “Greenberg,” many seemingly simplistic actors have found plaudits in their more serious–albeit bizarre–roles. Even the fictionalized BoJack Horseman has found similar results in his turn as Seabiscuit in the eponymous show.
Looking strikingly similar to BoJack Horseman’s transformation from sitcom star to critical darling is “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc in his hit show “Episodes.” Having found his new calling playing a larger-than-life version of himself on the David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik created show, LeBlanc has enjoyed accolades and acclaim during his five-year run. And now with the show reaching its last season, it seems LeBlanc was already itching to return to his multi-camera sitcom world with his latest turn in CBS’ “Man With a Plan.” The Knockturnal had the opportunity to talk to LeBlanc, Crane and Klarik about their time on the show, it’s meta representation of Hollywood and how horrible writing rooms can be.
Film Festivals Becoming TV Show Platforms
It seems that more and more, television shows have begun stripping the divider between small and big screen of its power. TV shows like “Animals.” and “The Girlfriend Experience” have demonstrated that film festivals are a viable place to premiere and showcase works as well. From Sundance to Cannes, it seems that many festivals have embraced the medium as a long-form vehicle for storytelling.
When asked about “Episodes” appearance at Tribeca, Matt LeBlanc replied, “it’s nice to be a part of a film festival. They don’t usually include TV shows so it’s great to have it here.” The Golden Globe-winning actor went on gush, “I’m more of a TV guy. Film festivals seem to be broadening their horizons more to include TV shows which is probably a good thing. Television is good [laughs].” The actor ended by saying that “it’s the final season and I just hope people enjoy it. It may be our strongest season yet.”
Is It Too Soon to End?
David Crane has always been known for his lauded comedy work. It’s his sharp, tight and well-paced writing that has led the producer to numerous industry awards. From “Friends” to “The Class” Crane has worked extensively on creating accoladed television shows. But it was his collaboration with partner Jeffrey Klarik that led to perhaps their best work yet. Unfortunately, it seems that the four-time Emmy nominated show has reached its end, with this being it’s last season.
“We thought we would be relieved that it was over but we’re more melancholic now. We’re sort of thinking, ‘we could have gone another year or two,’ said Klarik. But with Matt LeBlanc’s new casting in the CBS show “Man with a Plan,” it appears that it was destiny to end the show when it did. “It seems Matt is pretty well booked for the next several years.”
When asked about how the show will say farewell to its audiences, Crane said, “we really ended this season with a bow on it. It’s that feeling of when you come to the end and you want to feel like you’ve come to the end without it being too sudden.” If the other seasons or their other TV shows are any indication, it seems that this newest finale will not disappoint.
A Postmodern Meta Portrayal of Hollywood
Hollywood is often derided for its glitzy, superficial world. It is neither serious nor lighthearted. It’s a contrasting existence that oscillates between its sociocultural pedagogy of artistry and commercial exploitativeness. The Producers are two-faced, the actors are hollowed versions of their former selves and the directors are egomaniacal creatures. At least, that’s how Crane and Klarik portray it.
And now with LeBlanc one season into his CBS show that looks eerily similar to the style of humor in the show-within-a-show Pucks, it appears that the narrative has come full circle. “It’s very meta, isn’t it?” reflected Klarik. “the new season has got all kinds of ironies and levels in the show. We don’t want to tip anything but it does chase its own tale,” added Crane.
When asked what the showrunning duo are up to next, Klarik responded by saying, “we got some ideas that we’ve been talking to people about. We’re excited.” Crane added, “it’s still in the forming stages. We’re tip-toeing toward it. But hopefully we’ll have something soon.” Whether the show would be on a cable channel like HBO or Showtime (like “Episodes”) or a network channel like CBS or NBC (à la “Friends”) Klarik was quick to say, “never again!”
The Writer’s Room… or Hell on Earth
Making a TV show is a collaborative process. There are directors, actors, script supervisors, grips, producers, executives, all coalescing together to make a project come true. And then, there are the writers. They are the oft underappreciated individuals who are skirted aside during the production and are often not recognized for their work, much like Nicolas Cage’s neurotic version of Charlie Kaufman is in “Adaptation.” And Jeffrey Klarik has plenty of experience in that perpetual purgatory.
“It’s mostly rage, disappointment and frustration. I just said to David, ‘I’ve had it. I’m never doing this again. I hate these people. I don’t want to do TV anymore.'” Crane was quick to jump in to reveal his reply, saying, “oh come, let’s do something!” Pointing to Klarik and himself, Crane said, “this is pretty much Beverly (Klarik) and Sean (Crane) in terms of our worldviews and how we approach television.”
When asked how Matt entered the world comedy again, the former “Friends” star said, “they really downplayed it to me. They said, ‘we got an idea for a show. What do you think?’ I said, ‘oh great, the last one we did together went pretty good [laughs].’ Then they asked, ‘do you want to hear the idea?’ They pitched beat-by-beat the entire first season with no notes or anything. It was all in their head. I said, ‘it sounds like a pretty great show.'” Thankfully it turned out exactly like that thanks to LeBlanc’s fantastic acting, the show’s lightheartedness and the writing’s wit.
“Episodes” is set to premiere on Showtime August 20.