Matt LeBlanc

Written by @EllieDangerous
“He’s just Joey from Friends.” Yeah but that's not true. It's just fun to imagine. The truth about Matt LeBlanc in Hollywood-loving Hollywood-hating sitcom ‘Episodes’ is actually to his credit. The flashy American actor made an insane name for himself as Joey, but he’s moved on from that by rebuffing the typecast and by embracing it. Pretty smart for Joey. And while we watch him whizz around the ‘Top Gear’ tarmac with an optimistic redhead, here’s a post about how Matt LeBlanc playing Matt LeBlanc does actually work.

Spoiler Alert
I know it’s a moo point, but the name “Joey” is only one letter off the word “joy”. Coincidence?! Whatever, but basically Joey was a big bundle of joy in ‘Friends’, and LeBlanc’s character in ‘Episodes’ is really not. That works right away, because we all secretly want to listen to Joey talk about f***ing and a**m******* and r*i*$%***s***ing. When swearwords are uttered from the mouths of babes, we stifle a giggle, and that’s one of the obvious reasons why it’s fun to watch “Joey” behave like a degenerate.

By the way, I don’t mean degenerate like saying “how you doin’?” to 50 women a day, or eating spaghetti off the floor (which is fine by the way, I did that last week, the floor's clean). Matt LeBlanc in ‘Episodes’ is proper sleazy, and that’s another reason why it works. If you’re going to play yourself, go all out — like Larry David in ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’, who bigs up his flaws for all to enjoy. Celebrity watching is a big deal, and if the celebrity is very very naughty then people won’t stop watching.

Even better, nobody’s getting hurt. If LeBlanc was like this in real life, people like you and me, who pretend not to like this stuff, would consciously refuse to pay attention to it. On principle. But he’s a fictional character in ‘Episodes’, so we get to oggle the car crash while feeling safe in the knowledge that it’s just a training exercise.

Hollywood itself reeks of car crash — at least the way ‘Episodes’ tells it. Everyone’s smiling placatingly while cursing the ground you walk on, and while the younger actors starve themselves to stupidity the older ones inject pale custard into their cheekbones. Matt LeBlanc, with his fleet of sports cars and his white, white grin, symbolises much of what is fun to watch about Hollywood — especially the frivolous wealth. For the same reason why we watch documentaries about absurdly wealthy people and their new poodle-shaped golf courses, we like him to parade the boulevard in a limo and attend a homicidal dictator's birthday party so he doesn't have to give up his private jet. In 'Episodes', Matt LeBlanc knows someone called "the guy who sweeps my beach".

And the best thing about it all is that we’re not alone in guiltily enjoying it — the delinquency, the luxuriance, the cartoonish Hollywood extravagance. Because these stories aren’t being told through Matt LeBlanc's eyes. We’re seeing Hollywood, and Matt LeBlanc, through the eyes of our two humble British sarcasmatrons: Beverly and Sean Lincoln, played by Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan. If we’re annoyed by LeBlanc, they get annoyed. If we’re reluctantly impressed, they get reluctantly impressed. If he makes us sick, they do the vomiting.

‘Episodes’ is great at making Matt LeBlanc more than a celeb, and more than a good character: he’s one of Hollywood’s most interesting sights, and we get a guided tour. I would point out the irony of that, but as he says himself, it’s never worth pointing out the irony, to anyone, ever, in life.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 19 June 2016
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