Coupling should come
with a warning label: "Do not watch this show while consuming food or
beverages"... given the hysterical laughter that this show provokes, it's
just far too easy to spill something or choke. And I do mean out-loud,
stomach-aching, gasping-for-breath laughter, not just some little
smile-and-giggle. Yes, Coupling Season 2 is just as funny as Season 1... or even
The tagline that Coupling
is "about nothing... but sex" plays on the fact that sex (and all its
attendant problems) is a nearly inexhaustible source of comedy. Writer/creator
Steven Moffat has tapped into the mother lode with Coupling, which
revolves around the lives of six rather quirky people in their late 20s,
grappling with the big issues of commitment, relationships, love, self-esteem,
communication, and of course the big issue of finding someone to have sex with.
And with these characters, anything and everything to do with the opposite sex
is fraught with peril, from Jeff's attempts to have an actual coherent
conversation with an attractive woman, to Patrick's discovery of the dreaded
At the center of the group is
the relationship between Steve (Jack Davenport) and Susan (Sarah Alexander),
the most "normal" of the characters, who serve as a kind of foil to
their friends, some of whom are quite nuts, like Jeff (Richard Coyle) and Jane
(Gina Bellman) and some just mildly peculiar, like Sally (Kate Isitt) and
Patrick (Ben Miles). What makes these characters work so well is that all of
them are recognizable as being just like us, in some way... even if on a
grander scale. Whether it's Steve's panic at actually making a decision, Jeff's
acute attacks of nervous babble, Sally's horror at the prospect of actually
growing old, Patrick's avoidance of actual relationships, or Jane's utter
self-absorption, we've all been there, or know someone who has. And of course,
all six of Coupling's main actors are perfect for their parts.
What makes Coupling so
funny isn't just the characters, though they are amusingly drawn and very well
acted. No, the magic of Coupling is in the writing, which gives us a
brilliant combination of extremely funny dialogue with absolutely hilarious
situations, spiced up with off-the-wall playfulness. The characters start out
in a bit of a sticky situation... and they proceed to make it worse. And worse.
And it keeps escalating, often in the most unexpected ways, but always with
everything completely in character.
The episodes are put together
in a very creative manner, as well, stepping outside of the static camera style
of the "typical situation comedy." Flashbacks and present-time action
are often intercut, as are opposing sides of a story being told by "the
guys" in one place and "the girls" in another place. One of the
funniest techniques that Coupling uses is to show us something as the
characters perceive it, not as it really is: thus we get things like the
ticking-bomb wedding invitation, the absolutely brilliant Captain Subtext and
his Truth Helmet, any number of surreal flights of fancy from Jeff, and of
course the Melty Man himself.
Coupling starts off with
a bang with the hilarious "The Man with Two Legs," and it keeps to
that high mark quite consistently. Most of the episodes do a great job of
interweaving several story threads involving different characters, with them
all coming together at the end, as in "My Dinner in Hell" in which
Steve gets himself completely in hot water with Susan's parents, while Patrick
and Jeff go in search of "Junior Patrick." The episodes "My Best
Friend's Bottom" and "The Melty Man Cometh" (which form a single
story over two episodes) and "Jane and the Truth Snake" have to rank
very highly as well. Of course, not all the episodes are perfect;
"Dressed" relies more on cruder physical humor and inter-character
sniping instead of the witty humor and escalating absurd situations of earlier
episodes. That's not to say that it doesn't have its funny moments; it's just
not quite up to the high standard of the others. Fortunately, we get right back
to utter hilarity with the following "Naked," in which Jeff actually
manages to get off to a reasonably good start (for him) with an attractive
co-worker... although it's not long before things go haywire.
Viewers who saw the first
season of Coupling will of course be familiar with the characters, and
will enjoy the occasional reference back to earlier episodes, but it's
certainly possible for new viewers to pick up the show now. It's worth pointing
out that, in a staggeringly idiotic move, a recast version of Coupling
(using the same scripts, but cut down for more commercial time, and U.S.
actors) was piloted in the U.S. It was a dismal failure; what I don't
understand is how the idea even got past the drawing board. The original
British Coupling is, to borrow one of Jeff's favorite words,
"brilliant." Don't even waste a moment of your time on the copy; get
the original. You won't regret it for an instant, unless of course you spill a
drink on yourself because you're laughing too hard. But that's a risk worth
Coupling: Season 2 is a
two-DVD set. Six episodes are presented on the first DVD, while the second DVD
has the remaining three episodes plus the special features.
Coupling is presented in
an anamorphic widescreen transfer, which preserves the show's original 1.85:1
aspect ratio. As a whole, the image quality is excellent, with bright, clean
colors, good contrast, and a clean print. I did find the transfer to be not
quite as good as Season 1's transfer, though: it's a bit softer in
long-distance shots, and I noticed some definite pixellation around the edges
of objects at times. This isn't a big deal, though: I'm pleased overall with
how Coupling looks.
Coupling Season 2 has a
Dolby 2.0 soundtrack that offers a solid listening experience. The dialogue is
always crisp and totally clear, which is essential in a dialogue-heavy comedy
like this. There is a laugh track, but fortunately it's not obtrusive at all.
The show's theme song ("Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps") is both entirely
appropriate to the show, and extremely catchy: it sounds great as well.
I have one major gripe with the
Coupling DVD, and that's the menu screens. The main menu screen plays
clips from assorted episodes, and when you select an episode to play, a clip
from that episode begins to play in the background of the menu. If you're not super-fast with the remote
control, you can wind up seeing a spoiler for the episode, since these clips
give away quite a bit. It's completely unnecessary and quite annoying.
The actual bonus content of Coupling:
Season 2 is excellent. To begin with, we get audio commentaries for every
episode except the first two. Writer and series creator Steven Moffat provides
commentary, along with Ben Miles (Patrick) and Kate Isitt (Sally) for "My
Best Friend's Bottom" and "The Melty Man Cometh"; with Gina
Bellman (Jane) for "Jane and the Truth Snake" and
"Dressed"; Susan Vertue (the producer) for "Naked"; and
Sarah Alexander (Susan) and Susan Vertue for "Gotcha" and "End
of the Line."
On the second DVD, we get three
substantial interviews: with executive producer Beryl Vertue (6 minutes),
Steven Moffat (20 minutes), and Jack Davenport (7 minutes), giving their
thoughts on the origins, development, and responses to the show. Wrapping up
the special feature content is a section of cast biographies and a set of
trailers for The Office, Robbie the Reindeer, Ab Fab, Coupling
Season 1, BBC America, and BBC Classic Comedies.
If you enjoyed the first season of Coupling,
then run, don't walk to get a copy of Season 2. If you haven't seen any Coupling,
then what the heck are you waiting for? This is a truly hilarious comedy for
adults, drawing its humor from its quirky characters and the absurdly
complicated situations that they get themselves into. It's a worthy addition to
the DVDTalk Collector Series.