Showtime’s meta comedy about the Hollywood lifestyle slowing poisoning the work and personal relationship of married television writers Sean and Beverly Lincoln returned tonight for its second season. When we last saw our heroes, every promise the couple had made before coming to L. A. had been broken. They’d compromised their artistic integrity, allowing their program to evolve into something unrecognizable from what they’d originally created for British audiences. With the show causing a rift between them, the Lincolns’ marriage was further stressed by Matt LeBlanc (playing a twisted version of himself), his presence constantly pushing the wedge further between Sean and Beverly. All of this boiled over into a season finale that left us with Beverly and Matt sleeping together, Sean and Matt having an epic fight, and the news that their show Pucks! had been picked up by the network.
“Episode One” starts four months later after all the chaos, and it seems as though things have calmed down. Pucks! is filming, Sean and Beverly seem civil, and Matt LeBlanc has a dozen coffee makers he needs to give away. It’s business as usual, until the reveal that Sean and Beverly are living separately. Apparently, the Bev and Matt’s pilot production seduction took a toll on the Lincolns’ marriage after all.
The night before the Pucks! premiere, Bev and Carol Rance swap stories of their romantic troubles over weed and wine. Carol laments about Merc bringing her along to help him pick out a ring for his blind wife (“Give her one of her old ones! How will she know?”). Bev has also been gift shopping, but for Sean’s birthday, the first one they’ll be spending separated, and has already overanalysed her purchase, upset that she has to worry about looking needy when it comes to her own husband. Carol suggests that maybe Sean wants a little “needy” in his life to feel empowered.
Meanwhile, Pucks! sucks! Or, at least that’s what the critics are saying. The show is being panned all over the place, one reviewer even questioning how the show managed to last 4 seasons in the U. K. “It’s like they can see into our souls,” Sean bemoans as he reads through bad review after bad review. He and Bev commiserate over each one, but stop themselves just as they start to have a moment and fall back into the roles of loving spouses.
Later that night, Merc decides to screen the Pucks! premiere at his home because it’s a big deal — Matt LeBlanc’s first show since Friends. Ouch. Poor Matt. He quickly recovers from Merc’s offhanded comment, though, when Merc’s blind wife Jamie gets a little handsy in the dark of the screening room. And by handsy, I mean handjob-y. Didn’t see that coming! But good for Jamie, as Merc treats her like crap. When Matt tries to tell Sean about his and Jamie’s encounter, Sean makes it clear he is still pissed about Matt and Beverly sleeping together and has no interest in making nice. When Matt finally does manage to tell Sean about the handjob, Sean warns Matt to make sure Merc never finds out, or the show will be finished.
When the ratings come in for Pucks!, it turns out that the show is a big hit. It’s the number one show of the night, and everyone is excited, including Beverly. Sean is genuinely surprised that she’s happy the show is doing well. Her reasoning is actually rather sad. Apparently, Sean has made it clear to Bev that when the show is over and they go back to England, they’re over. “Why would I wish for that to go away?” Beverly asks him.
Those who follow television news closely know that just because a show has good ratings the first week doesn’t mean much, and Pucks! actress Morning warns Sean of this. As it turns out, they might even have some stiff competition in the form of a talking dog show that will debut the next week. Sean doesn’t have much time to worry about this concept, though, as Morning decides to surprise him with a few “birthday kisses”. Sean gets lost in his leading lady’s embrace, Beverly’s own birthday gift left unnoticed in his car.
All in all, it seemed like a strong start for season two. The performances are strong, and Carol Rance in particular is growing as a character into a really great role. The stakes are set up: Matt wants to be friends with Sean again, but he may have bitten off more than he can chew if Jamie comes onto him again. Beverly wants to still be with Sean, but seems to be taking the “stand back” approach, waiting for him to come to her, but Sean is willing to explore things with Morning. Most importantly, Pucks! is a hit…for now.
Episodes airs on Showtime on Sundays, 10:30 PM EST.
What did you think of the season premiere?