Episodes returns for second series on BBC Two

Interview with executive producer, Jimmy Mulville

Jimmy Mulville has been on the receiving end of ridiculous ideas from US network executives playing the ratings game, so he has first-hand experience of what Beverly and Sean are going through this series.

"The thing with working in network TV is the pressure to keep ratings up. When the ratings are not doing well, there is a sense of panic and people come up with these crazy ideas," he says.

"Getting a show on the air for the first time is a kind of madness then if the ratings aren't good it gets worse."

While he concedes the network executives are only trying to help, he admits he has heard endless horror stories about what Brits in America have had to put up with.

"When I was doing Whose Line Is It Anyway over there, one network said instead of four people, there should be six, and there should be more ethnic diversity in the show to tick all the boxes. Steven Moffat had the same kind experience with doing Coupling over there. He told me Episodes was horribly accurate." 

With that kind of experience it would be easy to understand the trepidation British writers and production companies feel at the very idea of taking a show to the States. But Jimmy admits he still gets a thrill from working in Hollywood.

"I always get excited about working with American writers and producers and I enjoy working in LA. It's like a factory town where everyone is making shows. If it was easy to get a show on air, everyone would be doing it. It needs to be hard."

Luckily, working with Showtime, who broadcast Episodes in the US, has been a totally different experience.

"In Episodes we are talking about a crazy network, not a cable network like Showtime," says Jimmy.

"They are a sophisticated, bright, sensitive bunch of people who enjoy the show as much as we do. It's a world of difference doing a show for a cable network where you can have adult themes and sexual imagery. It's why more and more writers gravitate towards cable networks like Showtime and HBO because their work is more protected."

The partnership has worked for him with Episodes with a Golden Globe win for Matt LeBlanc plus Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for the show.

"It's always a good thing for a new series to get a Golden Globe. It's a real achievement because we were up against established series and series in the US which have 22 episodes shown over a year. Our first series had seven half-hour shows, so it's a real achievement. It was good for Matt as well, as it was a risk for him taking the show and playing a version of himself."

One of the twists in the second series of which Jimmy is particularly proud is how they handle the question of a guest appearance from one of Matt's former Friends castmates.

"We did think about who might want to be involved, but we thought the person who guests in this episodes was the funniest option and in keeping with the central idea of the show in the end."