Thank god for the Brits! Given the current state of situation comedies on
American television, it's palate-cleansing to watch a show as vibrant and
enchanting as Steven Moffat's Coupling.
Now, before we move forward with this review of Series Two, let's confront
the 800lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room.
Q: Wasn't there an embarrassingly horrid American version of this show?
A: Yes, there was. It actually wound up being one of the first casualties
of the Fall 2003 television season.
Q: Didn't Steven Moffat write and Executive Produce the show?
Yes. Steven did have creative control.
Q: What went wrong?
A: First, the setting was changed to Chicago.
Second, they miscast almost every role, save Lindsay Price as Jane. All of its
strengths were lost in translation and the show failed miserably.
Despite this disaster, the original British series lives on. Truth be told,
the show is so wickedly clever it can stand toe-to-toe with the best of any
American sitcom on record. The six episodes of Series One were so fresh and so
inventive you couldn't help but want to see more. Lucky for us, Series Two is
now available on DVD from BBC Video.
• "The Man with Two Legs"
"I'm not one of
those amputators…in case you were worrying"—Jeff
Jeff's latest obsession winds up sitting across from him on the morning train,
his oversexed infantile brain comes up with an opening line so bizarre it leaves
no possible means of escape. Meanwhile, Sally has a new boyfriend who is
absolutely perfect—well, aside from all the flaws she is working to
Grade: A. Another showcase for the brilliant Richard Coyle
• "My Dinner in Hell"
"They talk about
sex like it's a completely normal thing!"—Steve
invites her sexually frank parents for dinner and Steve reads a bit too much
into the conversation. Jane has developed a talent to identify everyone's ideal
celebrity friend, and Junior Patrick turns out to be a "male-order"
Grade: A. Jack Davenport (Steve) at his embarrassingly
• "Her Best Friend's Bottom" (Part 1 of 2)
"As Susan's best friend, I am to you a bit like
"Very distant, largely
uninhabitable, and with areas of great danger."—Sally
"So you mean I can visit your Sydney, or your Melbourne, but I'm not
welcome in your Bush."—Steve
When Steve accidentally walks
in on Sally naked, it becomes too large an issue to keep quiet. Now it's up to
Captain Subtext to save the day. Patrick experiences his first visit from The
Grade: B. Steve's cushion diatribe is the highlight of
• "The Melty Man Cometh" (Part 2 of 2)
don't need you to think of me as a person! I have women for
Sally and Patrick have finally hooked up. Yet,
for the first time, Junior Patrick refuses to participate. Steve and Jeff
educate Patrick on the dangers of The Melty Man, while Sally fears she has
become the scourge of mankind. Could this be more than sex—and they
actually have feelings for each other?
Grade: B. Ben Miles
(Patrick) gets an opportunity to expand his range, as Patrick becomes a much
more interesting character.
• "Jane and the Truth Snake"
threesomes? That's fantastic! Think of the advantages—all those breasts.
It would be like being attacked by the giant breast octopus! Only this time your
mother won't wake you up before the good bits."—Jeff
from her traffic-reporting job when she wreaks havoc with a morning meditation,
Jane reevaluates her life and decides to pursue her dream of being a children's
television host. Patrick has just dumped his latest girlfriend by answer phone
(voice mail), when she shows up at the pub offering a threesome.
B+. The best characters are the crazy ones who see themselves as
perfectly normal and everyone else as nuts. Gina Bellman (Jane) and Ben Miles
each showcase brilliant monologues.
"I could eat the
"The waitresses. I could eat them up,
in a big bowl, with their uniforms."—Susan
get you some bread."—Steve
"No, no, no, I could eat
them all up, in a lesbian sort of way."—Susan
"Lesbians don't eat people, Susan"—Steve
wedding invitation arrives in the mail and throws the entire gang into a panic.
The girls are concerned they're getting older and the guys are afraid of losing
their freedom. Patrick's past comes back to haunt him, when his
Volkswagen-driving ex shows up at the pub but fails to recognize him.
Grade: A. Steve and Susan unintentionally take their relationship to the
"Do you think I want everyone
to think I'm some mad, lonely desperate woman?"—Sally
"Of course you don't. It's just bad luck."—Patrick
Jane is on the prowl, offending everyone in her path. Yet, the universe has a
unique way of balancing the scales and her comeuppance arrives in a very
revealing manner. To upstage a rival colleague, Patrick plans to use Sally as a
pretend wife. That is until he sees the competition.
Grade: A-. The
Patrick subplot is absolutely brilliant! Ben Miles and Kate Isitt (Sally) play
extremely well off each other.
"I'm 30 and I still end up in
the girl's toilet. What's the matter with me?"—Jeff
"I don't know. Nobody knows. Stephen Hawking doesn't know
Jeff and Julia, Susan's new boss, are
completely smitten with each other, but neither knows how to approach their
feelings. Frighteningly, they are more alike than either of them realizes.
Grade: B+. Jeff gets a real relationship, subjected to complete
humiliation, and a visit from the source of his neuroses—his mother!
• "The End of the Line"
"Where are you
"It's up to
When Steve and Susan engage in some innocent,
independent flirting, it triggers a chain reaction that throws the universe into
chaos and puts the gang on a collision course with a French dominatrix and an
Australian pub owner.
Grade: A+. How do two people tell if their
love is the real thing?
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, BBC Video packages Series Two
with the same high standards set by the first series release. The image quality
superbly captures the beautifully designed and decorated sets. In addition to
the boys' home base pub, Susan and Jeff's office, and Steve and Susan's flats,
we are also welcomed into Patrick's lothario love pad and Sally's salon, which
has become the girls' primary gathering place. The colors, textures, and
lighting used on each are quite impressive for series television. The Dolby 2.0
stereo track captures even the subtle nuances of Moffat's sharp dialogue and
injects a welcome amount of original scoring by the talented Simon Brint. A
great deal of credit is also due director Martin Dennis, whose wisdom and
guiding hand behind the camera rivals that of the great James Burrows.
BBC has taken a step forward with the bonus materials on Series Two. All but
the first two episodes include commentary tracks, each featuring series creator
Steven Moffat and a rotating ensemble of cast members including Sarah Alexander
(Susan), Kate Isitt (Sally), Ben Miles (Patrick), Gina Bellman (Jane), as well
as producer Sue Vertue (Steven's wife). Relaxed, engaging, and informative, each
track is like sitting down to drinks with old friends. The commentaries were
recorded after wrapping production on Series Three and Steven makes several
references to plot developments underway for Series Four. Also included are
one-on-one interviews with Steven (21 minutes), executive producer and
mother-in-law Beryl Vertue (7 minutes), and Jack Davenport (7 minutes), as well
as cast bios and studio trailers.
Coupling is, without question, one of the finest comedies in
television history. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor, turn off the
dreck on primetime TV, run out and buy both discs, and prepare to laugh your
arse off. This court is adjourned!