Matt LeBlanc joins Showtime's 'Episodes'

Half-hour comedy series spoofs the television business

Matt LeBlanc is reteaming with "Friends" co-creator David Crane for "Episodes," a Showtime/BBC comedy series spoofing the TV business.

Showtime has ordered six half-hour episode of the series, which Crane created with Jeffrey Klarik, for a 2010 premiere on Showtime and BBC Two.

"Episodes," which will start production in January in London and Los Angeles, centers on a successful British husband-and-wife comedy team thrilled by the prospect of producing an U.S. version of their hit series. But they are soon forced to replace the erudite British lead in the original with the quintessential U.S. comedy star, Matt LeBlanc, who will be playing a version of himself. They begin to sink deeper into the quicksand that is the Hollywood TV business ruled by a legion of network and studio executives.

"We jumped at the chance to get involved with this cockeyed look at network television told through the eyes of unsuspecting British producers who don't know what hit them when they enter the lion's den of Hollywood," Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt said.

TV veterans Klarik and Crane said they will draw upon their experiences of dealing with "too many cooks" in bringing a series to the screen.

After the two came up with the idea for "Episodes," they took it to veteran British producer Jimmy Mulville, whose Hat Trick Prods. is behind several British series adapted in the U.S. to various degrees of success, including "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," "The Kumars at No. 42" and "Worst Week."

The project quickly landed at the BBC, where Mulville has a long-standing relationship, and that was followed by a stateside sale to Showtime.

LeBlanc's role was written for him after Crane and Klarik approached the actor early in the process. He came on board right away. "I am so glad I got the part; seeing someone else play Matt LeBlanc would have been devastating," he quipped.

The plot of "Episodes" is not without real-life parallels; for example, NBC struggled to adapt the U.K. hit "Coupling" before scoring gold with its version of British favorite "The Office."

Skewing show business has been a popular comedy theme for the premium cable networks, which have been populated by shows such as "Entourage," "Extras," "The Comeback" (which starred another former "Friends" star, Lisa Kudrow) and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO and "Fat Actress" at Showtime.

"Episodes" reunites the WME-repped Crane and Klarik with CBS Corp. boss Leslie Moonves, who also oversees Showtime. The duo created the CBS comedy "The Class."
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