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Set Pieces: Hollywood excess and Malibu modernism in Showtime's 'Episodes'

February 1, 2011 |  7:00 am

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For Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, above), the sophisticated but hapless London TV writers at the center of Showtime's comedy "Episodes," nothing is as it seems. Brought to Los Angeles to Americanize their hit British series, they end up in a ridiculous gated-community house: a faux neoclassical McMansion that, they are told, had been the setting for many a reality show. 

Sean & Bev bathroomThat certainly seems plausible, from the looks of the French Provincial conservatory kitchen and the Caesar's Palace-style bathroom, right.

It turns out, however, that the locations and sets that seem so L.A. are as deceptive as the Hollywood players the Brits encounter in "Episodes." The entire series was, in fact, shot in London, production designer Grenville Horner said. 

"I had a four-day reconnaissance in L.A., visiting homes in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Malibu, to absorb the whole world and to re-create the glossy showbiz world of L.A. -- interiors and exteriors -- in England,"  Horner said by e-mail.

Filling in for Sean's and Beverly's Los Angeles digs: the 22-bedroom Updown Court in Surrey, below, which in 2005 was listed as the most expensive house in Britain, offered at 70 million British pounds, which is more than $110 million. 

S&B Mansion_Original

When it came time to research interiors for such an over-the top residence, set decorator Clare Andrade did, in fact, see the mansion used in the reality show "Beauty and the Geek" but found it "wasn't really ostentatious enough," she said by e-mail.

To dress the gigantic marble-clad spaces, she landed on a mix of gold, pale silks and animal prints, and she took some cues from photos of Cher's Malibu home. "The house exerted its own influence," she added. "Everything was a version of something. Not the real deal, extravagant and vulgar."

Keep reading to see more on the interior of "Episodes" ...

Fish-out-of-water Sean and Beverly find themselves with a boorish, blowhard producer Merc (John Pankow) who insists that they hire the actor Matt LeBlanc (played by Matt LeBlanc). In "Episodes," LeBlanc lives in a Malibu beach house (actually a north London military bunker that had been converted into a house); Merc lives in a hilltop home with ocean and city-lights views, though the panoramas that viewers see were created by the production effects firm Stargate Studios.

Blue Picnik collage

Above left, Greig and LeBlanc work in Britain with a blue screen. At right, a view of Los Angeles at night magically appears behind the actors.  The inspiration was an L.A. house by architect Paul Williams. In creating the outdoor rooms, Andrade introduced a "cultured, spiritual vibe" with tables from India, ottomans from Morocco and stools from China mixed in with the contemporary outdoor furniture.

 

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LeBlanc in his Malibu pad in "Episodes": The pale palette is meant to emphasize two things, light and wealth. Pale colors are not practical, Andrade said. "We wanted to hint to that there maybe was a deeper layer to Matt's character, so we included ethnic items and contemporary art." The artwork "Augen," by Colin Brown, was rented from the British consultants Indigo Art.


Matt's Int. dressed

LeBlanc's living room has a number of familiar modern furnishings, including Barcelona chairs. "We wanted Matt to appear to have knowledge of design, so we incorporated items by Charles Eames and Mies van der Rohe," Andrade said. The arched lighting fixture is the Twiggy floor lamp designed by Marc Sadler for manufacturer Foscarini. The antique clock dial was inspired by merchandise that Andrade has seen at the Los Angeles store Blackman Cruz.

Sean & Bevs house

One last look at the British house that serves as Sean's and Beverly's Hollywood rental: The marble and wrought-iron staircase is based on the one in Casa Casuarina, the Miami Beach mansion once owned by Gianni Versace.

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: Grenville Horner and Showtime

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