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'Episodes' season 4 premiere recap: Penny for a joke?

Season 4 | Episode 1 | “Episode One” | Aired Jan 11, 2015

Season 4 of Episodes picks up right where the finale left off: Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) must now pack their bags and leave England for L.A. once again to shoot six more episodes of Pucks, which network head Elliot Salad (Michael Brandon) ordered to keep Matt (Matt LeBlanc) from starring in a new NBC pilot. When asked by customs their reason for reentering the country, a bitter Beverly growls, “Matt. LeBlanc.”

As it turns out, the Lincolns are not alone in their disdain for the newly resurrected Pucks, which Matt’s costar, Morning Randolph (Mircea Monroe), likens to Jesus, “if Jesus was a shitty sitcom no one watched.”

Morale at the table read is at an all-time low. “We wrote this on the plane back,” says Sean. “It’s not very good.”

Sean and Beverly settle back into their old office, still saddled with the delightfully inadequate Wendy (Scarlett Rose Patterson) as their assistant. As soon as they crack open their first box to unpack, the phone rings. “You want me to get that?” asks Wendy after a full 30 seconds. It’s a call from Eileen Jaffe (Andrea Rosen), begging them once again to hand over their reportedly stellar pilot script to any of the three networks clamoring for it. Anxious that an American network would destroy their new series in the same way it did Pucks, Sean and Beverly give her yet another firm no.

Meanwhile, Matt gets a call from his lawyer, Sanford Shamiro (Nigel Planer), who tells him that Larry Penzel, who had been handling Matt’s finances for decades, committed suicide the night before. Matt agrees to go to the funeral (“Shitty turnout,” he remarks before the ceremony), where he learns that Larry had been stealing from his clients and was under investigation by the FBI, which apparently came to light after Demi Lovato had him audited. Over the course of the funeral, Matt learns that he has lost $32 million, leaving him with only a little over $31 million.

Head of programming Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins) tries to schmooze with Elliot over lunch, eager to fill the top spot left by former network president Merc Lapidus (John Pankow). She remarks that he looks tan; he informs her that he has jaundice. “On you, it looks good,” says Carol.

Despite her efforts, Elliot announces that he wants Helen Bash for the job, which clearly unnerves Carol. On her hike with Beverly after lunch, Carol reveals that when she worked in daytime drama at ABC, she had an affair with her boss. “That’s so unexpected and out of character,” quips Beverly. The boss, of course, was Helen’s husband. The announcement comes soon after that Helen has, in fact, been hired by the network, news Carol takes with a panicked fake smile.

Back at the studio, Matt comforts himself with a Big Gulp full of booze, complaining to the Lincolns about the loss of half of his money. Sean considers the situation “slightly less dire” upon learning that this still leaves Matt with tens of millions, though Matt doesn’t see it that way. “You can have a very nice life even with as little as $31 million,” says Beverly. “I don’t see how,” says Matt.

Once they’ve worked out that Matt can live on $1 million per year, he reasons that this means he will have to die before he turns 80. “I wouldn’t worry about that,” says Beverly, watching Matt refill his Big Gulp.

This conversation prompts Matt to ask the Lincolns how much their TV writing gigs have earned them, which they refuse to discuss. “It’s in pounds,” protests Matt. “I won’t even know what it means!”

Despite their efforts to keep quiet, Matt discovers that Sean and Beverly have less than $1 million saved and tries to convince them that they’ll never be able to retire on that little. He argues that his grandpa worked right up until he died and that the Lincolns’ only hope of avoiding the same fate is to let one of the American networks pick up their script, which would make them richer than anywhere in England could. Their only other option, apparently, is to go home and open a little shop selling jokes: “Jokes, sir? Penny for a joke?”

Sean and Beverly are finally worn down; the former picks up the phone and calls Eileen to tell her it’s a go. “I made up the part about my grandfather,” whispers a gleeful, victorious Matt to Beverly.

The arc for the rest of the season is clear now: Sean and Beverly will negotiate with the three networks before making a deal with one, and it’s fair to guess that Matt will join the cast of their new show. His determination to keep them in L.A. seems equal parts selfish and affectionate; he’ll be out of work once the final episodes of Pucks air, and he’ll no doubt try to weasel his way into the Lincolns’ pilot. But the three of them have formed a strange friendship over the first three seasons that, on some level, Matt would be reluctant to lose. And though Sean and Beverly might refer to Matt as a monster, he’s a monster they let worm his way into their lives time and time again. That’s a habit they’re not about to break.

Stray Observations

  • Wendy, when Sean asks through the door if he and Beverly can see the gift basket Eileen sent them: “Not from there.”
  • Can you kill someone with an Etch-a-Sketch? Elliot thinks so.
  • Myra (Daisy Haggard), the network’s sour head of comedy, was sorely missed this week.
  • “I have been in this business for almost for … forever,” says Morning. Have we determined how old she actually is?
  • Matt: “You’ve never seen me drunk.” Beverly: “You vomited on me.” Matt: “I don’t recall that.”
  • Best sight gag: the poster for Wright & Wong, which the network execs somehow don’t think is racist.
TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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