If you think you recognise the name David Crane from somewhere, that’s because it flashes across in your television whenever E4 shows an episode of Friends, which as you can imagine, is pretty bloody often. But the man who helped give us the world’s most popular sitcom has teamed up with Jeffrey Klarik to create a weird but promisng new comedy starring British thesps Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Grieg and his old mate Matt Le Blanc. Episodes debuts on BBC2 this evening and the pair of them were happy to talk about Le Blanc’s role as a close-to-the-bone parody of himself..
“The idea was that in the original British version of the show the part was played by an elderly Shakespearean actor. So we thought – what is the furthest you could get from him? And then we went beyond even that. It’s the worst piece of casting in the world!” explains Crane.
“We were a little nervous pitching the idea to Matt. I mean, he’s the punchline. But he got on board immediately. He’s a terrific sport and has a great sense of humour about himself,” adds Jeffrey. “It was also an opportunity for people to see what range he has as an actor. The character of Matt LeBlanc in Episodes has some real dark sides, and Matt wasn’t afraid to explore those.”
David continues: “We were also excited about playing with everyone’s perception of who Matt is. When people meet Matt, they expect Joey Tribbiani. They assume he’s the dimmest bulb on the tree. But he’s nothing like that. It’s just a reflection of what a good actor he is. They’ll get to see a very different Matt LeBlanc in Episodes.”
Once Matt Le Blanc was on board, writing the series proved a more rewarding experience than they dared hope says Jeffrey, although he admitted being a stickler for the cast sticking to their script..
“It was a really refreshing experience for us, we were able to write all the episodes ourselves, which is a luxury you never get back home. We’re used to doing everything with a room full of other writers, which has a way of homogenising everything and limiting a specific writer’s voice.”
“We’ve also never done a series where we could write all the scripts in advance. It allowed us to really hone the characters’ arcs and polish the dialogue before filming started,” says David. “When you’re doing a network show in America, you’re writing the episodes at the same time you’re shooting them. It’s like you’re throwing the tracks in front of the train as it’s moving.”
“However we don’t love hearing just the gist of what we wrote,” David admits.
“We’re sticklers for getting words right,” strops Jeffrey. “There’s a reason why we wrote it the way we did. But we welcome hearing pitches from the actors. If they’ve got something funnier it’s great. The best line always wins.”
However the pair admit that they were definitely influenced by British shows like The Office, Extras, and The Mighty Boosh. “Sometimes we were pretty intimidated,” David confesses. “When we were writing Episodes, we happened to be watching the second season of Outnumbered. We had to turn it off. It was just too good.”
David and Jeffrey acknowledge that the English couple at the centre of Episodes is very much based on themselves: “We’re certainly familiar with the experience of working together and living together. The lines get very blurry. There is a scene where Beverly says to Sean: ‘Can we just not talk about the show this evening?’ and there is a long, long, long pause and they just can’t find anything else to talk about…”
Interview courtesy of the BBC Press Office..