Matt LeBlanc shines as Matt LeBlanc in Showtime’s “Episodes”

Matt LeBlanc stars in Showtime's "Episodes"

Many actors struggle to find consistent work after appearing on hit TV shows, but Matt LeBlanc seems to have come up with the perfect blueprint for how to avoid the dreaded typecasting pitfall. First, you try a spinoff as that same character — as he did with Joey after Friends ended its reign — and when that doesn’t work, you find a show in which you simply play yourself.

The second time is apparently the charm, because LeBlanc not only received a Golden Globe for his performance in the hit Showtime show Episodes, but he is now on one of the most critically acclaimed programs on television. And who knew that the answer all along was for Matt LeBlanc to play Matt LeBlanc?

To be honest, for those who haven’t seen Episodes (the new season premieres Sunday at 10:30pm ET on Showtime), it’s kind of a stretch to say he is actually playing himself. LeBlanc has admitted that it’s more of a caricature of his TV-star persona, but that makes it even funnier — especially the story about a specific body part being particularly impressive.

The show revolves around a married British couple named Sean and Beverly Lincoln (played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) who are asked to do an American version of their hit British TV series. Not only are they unhappy with the new direction of the show called Pucks!, but they are appalled when the network executives tell them they want LeBlanc to play the lead character (a hockey coach). That led to a lot of chaos on and off the set in the first season, the most glaring being LeBlanc sleeping with Beverly and forcing the writing duo to separate.

In Sunday’s premiere, Pucks! somehow defies all odds and manages to get very good ratings, which means the trio will need to find a way to work together despite not getting along. The beauty for viewers, of course, is getting to see three great comic actors in action.

LeBlanc is brilliant as the carefree actor with no concern for those around him; Mangan is hilariously understated; and Tamsin could be the funniest female actor to come along in a very long time. Throw in great supporting roles by John Pankow and Kathleen Rose Perkins as studio representatives, and you can see why this sitcom hits on all cylinders.

Now, if we could only get fellow Friends alum Matthew Perry to follow LeBlanc’s blueprint, everybody in television land would be very happy.

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Photo: Jack Barnes/Showtime