Life

Hit comedy Episodes creators quizzed on transatlantic show and a Friends reunion

Comedy hit Episodes, starring Matt LeBlanc, Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan, is back for its fifth and final series. We talk to its creators David Crane – who co-created Friends – and Jeffrey Klarik, about why it is the closest thing to a Friends reunion we'll get

Stephen Mangan as Sean, Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc and Tamsin Greig as Beverly in Episodes

ARE YOU SAD THAT EPISODES IS ENDING?

Jeffrey: I wasn't sad that it was ending until we realised it actually is ending, and every so often something happens and we think, 'Damn, that would have been such a great bit, I wish we were still shooting'. But I think we're doing the right thing, and I like the idea of people wanting more rather than kind of yawning and saying... again?

David: This was probably the most enjoyable season to make and with Jeffrey directing this year, he did a really great job and so it was us going out on a high. As bittersweet as it is, it was a really good year.

IS IT SOMETHING THAT COULD POTENTIALLY BE REVISITED YEARS DOWN THE LINE?

J: I think that, unlike Friends, it could be revisited, sure.

D: I don't know if it will, but it could, absolutely.

IS IT SOMETHING YOU EVER TALK ABOUT?

J: We talk about spinning it off, in a way. What would happen if American writers had to come to Britain to do a show? There are lots of versions we talk about.

D: And, unlike Friends – which was about a finite period of time in your life in your 20s – these characters can mature and it doesn't hurt what the essence of the show is about.

IS THAT FINITE TIME THING THE MAIN REASON THAT FRIENDS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN?

D: We did it, and it's done; we put a bow on Friends and, you know, if you want to watch Friends now, it's still on television.

J: The irony is, people think that's what they want and you just know... it's like going to your high school reunion, it's such a disappointment. You're like, 'Oh my God, what happened to her?'

DO UK AND AMERICAN AUDIENCES REACT DIFFERENTLY TO THE UK AND AMERICAN ASPECTS OF THE SHOW?

J: It's funny because I find there are a lot of American references that can go over Brits' heads. But I think, in general, people respond to funny the same way, and I think slapstick is a universal language.

D: And for us, the show has always been about the characters. I mean, there is stuff that is maybe specific to American television, but at its heart it is absolutely about Sean and Beverly and Matt and those dynamics, so hopefully that's universal.

DO YOU THINK A SHOW LIKE THIS COULD HAVE WORKED WITH ANY OF THE OTHER STARS OF FRIENDS?

D: When we came up with the idea for Episodes, we were thinking about what the final nail in Sean and Beverly's coffin would be as writers – what is that one thing that American television does to destroy their show? And when Jeffrey said, 'It's Matt LeBlanc'... if Matt had said no, we would not have done it. He is the perfect person for this show.

J: David Schwimmer wouldn't have been funny. Matthew Perry wouldn't have been funny. I mean, they're stuck with Joey, it's the persona of Joey. Especially because he is replacing Richard Griffiths in Sean and Beverly's show!

BUT MATT ISN'T REALLY PLAYING HIMSELF, IS HE?

J: He's not really himself – he's playing a character, showing the more colourful aspects of his personality.

THEY SAY COMEDY IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS TO WRITE. HOW DO YOU WRITE TO BE FUNNY?

D: We just try to make each other laugh, and if we can make each other laugh, then that's all we can do and hope that other people find it funny.

:: Episodes returns to BBC Two on March 30.

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