BBC Video // 2000 // 175 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // February 19th, 2003
A hot, sexy, totally up-front comedy
There is something uninhibited about the Brits that allow them to frankly discuss things we Americans are too uptight talk about in a group setting. Case in point, the smashing BBC Two sitcom Coupling. Picture crossbreeding the situation of Friends with the intelligent and insightful dialogue of Seinfeld along with the sexual honesty of Sex in the City, and you have a fresh, unbridled, hilarious new television series.
From the husband and wife team of writer Steven Moffat (Me Again) and producer Sue Vertue (The Vicar of Dibley) come six thirty-something friends dealing with the mysteries of life, love, and sex. Jeff (Richard Coyle, Topsy-Turvy) -- a bizarrely inventive, sex-crazed little man -- is best friends with Steve (Jack Davenport, The Pirates of the Caribbean) -- an introspectively neurotic, porn-addicted wanker -- who has recently escaped from a long, trying, sex-centric relationship with Jane (Gina Bellman, Seven Days to Live) -- a sweet but intellectually challenged, co-dependent -- only to end up meeting Susan (Sarah Alexander, Smack the Pony) -- a confident, sexy, smoldering spitfire -- recently dumped by Patrick (Ben Miles, Cold Feet) -- a suave, smooth, self-centered "him-bo" -- who has taken up dating her best friend Sally (Kate Isitt, Is it Legal?) -- a paranoid, aging-phobic intellectual. Their many adventures, both past and present, make for some of the most laugh-out-loud television viewing to come along in quite some time.
Everyone change partners! Steve is in the midst of breakup sex with Jane when he stumbles upon Susan, who has just been dumped by Patrick. The two set up a first date, while Susan's best friend Sally makes her move on Patrick.
Grade: A -- Outstanding writing combined with superb performances.
Sally rejects Patrick when she discovers his political beliefs, but regrets her decision when told of his genetic prowess. Susan invites Steve over for some home cooking, sparking a debate whether or not that constitutes a sexual commitment. Jeff and Patrick tell Steve to check out the condition of Susan's remote controls.
Grade: A- -- Two best moments -- Jeff being urged to check out Patrick's physical gifts, Steve's exploration of Susan's flat.
"Sex, Death, and Nudity"
Jane's aunt passes away and through bizarre relationship protocol the entire gang ends up at the funeral. Jeff clues Steve and Patrick into the dangers of the "Giggle Loop," while Sally deals with her phobia of getting old.
Grade: B+ -- Richard Coyle is absolutely brilliant in his role as Jeff, pushing the character beyond of the bounds of Michael Richard's Kramer (Seinfeld).
Steve's passion for erotica puts a strain on his relationship with Susan. Jane is dumped by her therapist, Patrick confuses his barber and winds up with a less than manly haircut, and all hell breaks loose at Steve and Susan's first dinner party, as Steve gives a dissertation on the independent film "Lesbian Spank Inferno."
Grade: A -- Hands down one of the best dinner conversations I've ever heard. A perfect example of Steven Moffat's exceptional writing.
"The Girl with Two Breasts"
Jeff falls for a beautiful woman in the bar but can't chat her up to save his life. Luckily she's from Israel and doesn't speak a word of English. We witness the exchange from both sides of the language barrier with hilarious and unexpected results.
Grade: A+ -- History has been made with this episode. A showcase of Coyle's incredible talent and the show's unique characteristics.
"The Cupboard of Patrick's Love"
Jane discovers Patrick's success with the ladies has been documented for posterity and stored in a vast video cupboard. Steve is upset that Susan is still a part of the collection and Sally does her best to become the newest addition
Grade: A -- It's amazing how one plot point can be manipulated into an entire laugh-packed episode. The worst part was realizing we have to wait until Series Two is released on DVD.
British television operates on a different schedule than we're used to. While our network "seasons" are currently 22 episodes (and diminishing each year), British shows are done in "series" consisting of 12 episodes or less. For example, Keeping Up Appearances ran five series from 1990-95 with a total of 44 episodes, while Absolutely Fabulous has, to date, run four series from 1992-96 and 2001 for a total of 27 episodes. Coupling is currently running seven episodes in its third series on the BBC. Series 2 had nine episodes, while Series 1 had six. Despite some claims that the consistency of a show through longevity and sheer volume of episodes determines its ultimate success, you will find more quality in the writing and performances within these six episodes than in most prime-time American sitcoms today. Sometimes less is more.
Unique for a television series, Coupling is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with beautiful animated menus consisting of "one-liner" clips from each chapter of each episode. Quite a treat! (A feature other studios should consider adopting.) The picture quality is superb, punctuated by the lush colors of the gang's neighborhood pub and the panache of their respective flats. The only downside is that the relatively few exterior shots exhibit a slight grain. This is a trademark look for British television and should not be considered a deficiency. The Dolby 2.0 audio track is quite appropriate for this dialogue heavy series and not at all lacking. The bonus features are a welcome addition, whetting the appetite for future releases. The 20 minute "Behind the Scenes Interviews" showcases one-on-one discussions with the cast and creators while in production on Series 3. The three-minute "Photo Shoot" is a musical video montage of the promotional session for the DVD release. Cast and Crew Bios provide a little more insight into members of the cast and crew and their various backgrounds. Finally, a collection of studio trailers highlight currently available and future releases from BBC Video. The only thing I would like to have seen added to this release is a commentary track by the cast and the show's creators.
For people who have never tapped into the wealth of talent British Television has to offer this is your chance. A highly accessible and incredibly funny series, Coupling has quickly established itself as one of the best Britcoms of all time. Coupling is bequeathed with my highest BUY recommendation for a television series on DVD. Those with BBC America on their cable or satellite lineup can catch the show there. The rest of us will have to wait patiently until the release of Series Two.
Writer Steven Moffat, producer Sue Vertue, director Martin Dennis, and the entire cast and crew of Coupling is commended on bringing new life to situation comedy. Let's only hope the American version of the series, currently in pre-production, lives up to your exceptional start. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2003 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Scenes Interviews
* The Photo Shoot
* Cast and Crew Bios
* Studio Trailers