first season got
a "highly recommended." The
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
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.
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.
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").
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.
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
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,
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.
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.