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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Coupling: The Complete Third Season
Coupling: The Complete Third Season
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // June 1, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 3, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

The first season got a "highly recommended." The second season got bumped up to a well-deserved "DVDTalk Collector's Series," a rating that I don't give lightly. Naturally, I was eagerly anticipating Season 3 of Coupling.

Um. So, uh, what's a reviewer to do when a DVD falls below expectations quite as much as this one does? I mean, for a while I was wondering if my sense of humor had suddenly become defective... but no, testing with other good comedies shows that my funny bone is working normally. It's just that in contrast to the my-stomach-hurts-from-laughing quality of Seasons 1 and 2 of Coupling, Season 3 is humor that's watered down to almost nothing.

Like the earlier seasons, Season 3 of Coupling consists of independent episodes that nonetheless advance a continuing storyline dealing with the romantic relationships of the six main characters. Season 2 left us at a bit of a cliffhanger with Steve and Susan's relationship. Jeff, amazingly enough, still has a girlfriend, while Patrick and Sally edge uncomfortably around the idea of the two of them being in a relationship. And Jane just continues to be her same old weirdly self-absorbed self.

The episodes continue to be technically clever, with the playful tricks we've come to expect from Coupling, like a time-delayed split-screen for two characters in "Split." But somehow the episodes don't feel fresh, or genuinely clever, at all. For one thing, it feels like the writers are running a bit dry on story material; several of the third season episodes follow the same pattern in which the episode alternates between the "guy" and the "girl" points of view on the same situation or event, as with "Split" and "Remember This," neither of which is actually particulary entertaining.

What's most disappointing about the Season 3 episodes of Coupling is not their repetitive nature, but the fact that they're not particularly funny. It's perhaps a telling point that I was acutely aware of the laugh track in the Season 3 episodes, unlike in the other seasons, because it was playing riotous laughter when I wasn't in the least inclined to laugh. These episodes are certainly trying hard to be funny... and I think that's where we can diagnose the problem. The humor in Coupling's first two seasons comes from situation and character, or to be more specific, from the show's wacky characters being placed in situations that get progressively more and more convoluted and hilarious.

As Season 3 opens, however, it becomes apparent that the style of the show has shifted. We now get an attempt at humor through specific one-shot jokes; the dialogue also becomes more barbed, as the show tries to capture laughs by having the characters snap and spar at each other. But that's not where Coupling's humor naturally lies, and the stand-alone humor falls flat and feels awkward.

In the later episodes in the season, some of the Coupling spark comes back. While none of the episodes manages to be completely successful, several manage to work in story threads that strike the more effective humorous notes. One plot line offers a funny story involving Jeff getting into a muddle with an attractive co-worker; though it's dragged out unnecessarily across two episodes ("Faithless" and "Unconditional Sex") it still evokes some great laughs. The dinner party/bathroom scene in "The Girl with One Heart," for instance, is genuinely funny in the best Coupling tradition, and there are a few good moments in the final episode, "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps." It seems like writer/creator Steve Moffat is looking for ways to keep Coupling moving forward and staying fresh, but rather oddly, without really having a grip on what's intrinsically funny about the show. The result is a set of seven episodes that have a few high points, but in general don't get even close to capturing the hilarity of the earlier two seasons.

The DVD

Coupling: Season 3 contains all seven 30-minute episodes from the third season. I reviewed a screener rather than a retail copy, and it's not clear whether the retail version will be a two-disc set (like the screener) or a flipper (since the screener discs were labeled "Side A" and "Side B").

Video

Coupling continues to appear in an excellent widescreen anamorphic transfer, at the show's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is excellent, offering bright, vibrant colors and a generally very clean and attractive picture. The image is slightly soft at times, but on the whole it looks great, and viewers will be very pleased with the show's appearance here.

Audio

Coupling's Dolby 2.0 soundtrack continues to offer a crisp and clean delivery of its dialogue. Unfortunately the laugh track feels rather obtrusive here, probably because the overdose of canned laughter is a constant reminder of how the show isn't really that funny.

Extras

The main special feature here is an almost-complete set of audio commentaries for the episodes by writer/creator Steve Moffat and actor Jack Davenport (Steve). On Disc 1, we get commentaries for "Split" and "Remember This," and on Disc 2, commentaries for "The Freckle, the Key, and the Couple Who Weren't," "The Girl with One Heart," and "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps."

On the second disc, we also get a few other special features. An eight-minute set of "deleted scenes" actually turns out to be bloopers, not deleted scenes (and not particularly funny bloopers, at that: mainly just actors flubbing lines). We also get a photo gallery, cast biographies, and a set of trailers for The Office Seasons 1 and 2, Coupling Seasons 1 and 2, Classic Comedy, AbFab 4, MI-5, Bottom, and BBC America.

Final thoughts

I've rather reluctantly decided to give Coupling: Season 3 a "rent it" as a recommendation. It's a dramatic fall in quality for a show that got a Collector's Series rating for its second season, but the proof is in the pudding: the originality and charm that were a hallmark of Coupling appear stretched thin here, and laughs are few and far between. The only thing that makes Season 3 worth watching for fans of Coupling is the appearance of a few genuinely Coupling-worthy absurd situations in the later episodes, so if you do start watching it, make sure to stick it out through the first few episodes to get to the better ones at the end.

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