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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Coupling - The Complete Fourth Season
Coupling - The Complete Fourth Season
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // January 25, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted January 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

The British comedy series Coupling has to stand in my experience as the show which experienced the most abrupt and disappointing decline in quality. Season 1 was hilarious and Season 2 was even funnier... and then Season 3 was lame and largely unfunny. Now we get Season 4, and it's more of the same: Coupling, at least as far as I'm concerned, is over.

Coupling had a great thing going in Seasons 1 and 2. The problem, I think, is that when the writers had used up all of their initial ideas, they didn't know what to do. Somehow, inexplicably, everybody must have lost track of what it was that made Coupling funny, because Seasons 3 and especially 4 are showcases for the show flailing about, desperately trying to recapture even just a bit of the original charm and hilarity.

A few of Season 4's episodes do manage to get some things right. For instance, in the first few episodes of the season, we see a return to the use of fantasy imagery, whether it's Steve having a fetus-related nightmare or Patrick having a sexual fantasy. This is the sort of thing that the first two seasons of Coupling had a lot of fun with: playing with unconventional, not strictly realistic forms of storytelling. We also get a couple of examples of Steve's comic monologue/rants: a dialogue with Susan involving the comparison of a fetus and a jelly baby, and another directed to an entire ante-natal class on the subject of pain relief during childbirth. There's an almost palpable sense of relief here that Steve (Jack Davenport) has some new material to work with, more than just the same old relationship and sex topics.

There are also a couple of instances of wacky situational humor, the kind (again) that the first two seasons thrived on. The season opener, “9 1/2 Minutes,”for instance, does a respectable job of interweaving what's going on with the different couples during the same stretch of nine and a half minutes at the bar. “Nightlines” also does a great job of getting the story progressively more tangled, as more and more of the characters end up talking on the same phone line (without realizing who else is listening).

So it's clear that there are a few things that make Season 4 watchable... but it's not enough to make it actually work the way it ought to. The humor style is all over the map, sometimes, as I've noted, hitting on the “crazy but logical situations” that were at the heart of Coupling, but also trying to eke out some laughs by one-liners delivered by the characters sniping at each other. In Season 4, it's actually hard to feel that these characters are really friends with each other; they certainly don't seem to do much except carp at each other.

The soap-opera aspect of the show also seems to have been drawn, kicking and screaming, into the limelight. It's true that in the earlier seasons there was always continuity, which was a strong point of the show, but it never felt like the progression of events was forced. Here in Season 4, the relationship between Sally and Patrick is jeopardized by the question of whether or not Patrick has ever slept with Jane... and Sally seems consumed by jealousy over an incident that (if it did happen) would have been years earlier. It's utterly out of character for all concerned, and it's patently obvious that it's being used as a plot device to keep their relationship edgy.

And then there's Oliver. Richard Coyles had left the show after Season 3, and so the character of Jeff, the funniest of the entire cast, was gone. Replacing him is Richard Mylan as Oliver Morris. In a brilliant example of how Coupling no longer has any sense of how to handle its creative material, the character of Oliver is... Jeff Mark 2. He's exactly the same: insecure and clueless around women, clumsy but well-meaning, and prone to saying whatever's on his mind, which is usually something completely bizarre. The only difference, really, is that Mylan doesn't have nearly the comic acting ability of Coyles, so Oliver is completely obvious as a “Jeff Lite.” What were they thinking? Why couldn't they have come up with a genuinely new character, one who could take the show in a new direction, add some fresh comedy to the mix? No... Coupling is thrashing about, trying desperately to reclaim what it once had, and in the process, completely overlooking opportunities to move on to fresh territory.

The DVD

Unfortunately, I only received check discs for this release, so I don't know what the packaging looks like. If the final product is the same as what I looked at, you'll get the six 30-minute episodes from Season 3 (2003) all on Disc 1. Disc 2 contains the special features.

Video

Coupling: Season 4 appears in a pleasing anamorphic widescreen presentation, as in earlier seasons. The image, which is presented in its correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is clean and bright, with colors and contrast handled well. While the image does get a little soft-looking in some circumstances, overall it's very attractive indeed.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is satisfactory for this dialogue-based show; the actors' voices are always clean, crisp, and easy to understand.

Extras

Disc 2 contains the special features for the set, and there's a reasonable amount of material here for fans of the show. The 43-minute documentary “Making of Coupling: From Script to Screen” is the most attention-getting of the bonus material, and it's worth watching if you've enjoyed the show. This documentary, presented quite attractively in anamorphic widescreen, touches on various aspects of the making of the show and includes interviews with the actors, writers, and other production staff.

Several smaller special features are included as well: ten minutes of outtakes (not terribly funny), nine minutes of deleted scenes, and a seven-minute interview with Richard Mylan (Oliver). There's also a set of text biographies of the cast, and trailers for The Office, MI-5, Bottom, AbFab, and Men Behaving Badly.

Final thoughts

As much as I enjoyed the first two seasons of Coupling (I loved them), I'm forced to conclude that the show has really lost track of what made it funny in the first place. There are some good moments scattered throughout Season 4, but there are also entire episodes that are completely laugh-free. If you thought Season 3 was worth watching, then you can pick up Season 4 in good faith, but if you were hoping for a return to the charm and style of Season 2, then don't bother. Overall, I'll suggest this as a rental, even if it's just to watch the documentary.

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