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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Coupling - The Complete Second Season
Coupling - The Complete Second Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // October 28, 2003
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

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 more.

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 Melty Man.

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 taking!

The DVD

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.

Video

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.

Audio

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.

Extras

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.

Final thoughts

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.

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