Episodes slipped onto our screens last year, with the unique selling point of a fading TV star Matt LeBlanc played by… Matt LeBlanc. As the Friends alumnus told various interviewers last week, this could have been creepy for him, but he felt in safe hands with his former Friends producer and the BBC.
His leap of faith paid off. LeBlanc returns to the second series, Golden Globe for Best Actor in hand (an award that never arrived on his shelf when he had to share screen time with five others and a haircut). Can he continue this return charge with series 2 – starting tonight on BBC2?
A quick recap reminds us of the clever concept, of a British husband/wife writing team, Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig), whose TV show Pucks is picked up by the US. This once-in-a-lifetime success is complicated only by the fact of Beverly sleeping with their resident A-lister and her husband discovering the fact in the first season finale.
So, here we are with this reluctant love triangle now finding themselves four months later in Hollywood, on the brink of their show going to air.
There’s a clever starting touch in how we discover everyone’s situations to have changed, and this evolution from Series 1 helps open the door to a much wider canvas than the initial set-up.
The Lincolns are struggling with their new status, dealing with ratings, reviews and temptation at every corner. Greig and Mangan are perfectly cast, sufficiently glossy-haired, especially Mangan, to be acceptable on a Hollywood set, but with sufficient British froideur to set them apart.
Meanwhile, LeBlanc is as generous with his status as previously, happy to be sent up as a man “in his first role since Friends”, (contenting himself with a raised eyebrow at the omission of Joey). This kind of omission is clever, conspiratorial and shares a big wink with both actor and audience, that can’t help but draw us in.
For me, the show’s stolen this week, though, by Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins), having an affair with show exec - Merc Lapidus, no less! - which is rolling along merrily badly - until she crashes into his wife at a screening, and sets the scene for one of those sight gags of which successful sitcoms are made.
Episodes Series 2 starts tonight, Friday 11 May, 10pm, BBC2 (not Wales - check listings).