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Coupling - The Complete First Season
Coupling could be described in a nutshell as a British version of Friends and Seinfeld, with a focus on the specifically sex-related adventures (and misadventures) of its cast of characters. The only problem I have with that description, though, is that it doesn't convey the fact that Coupling is not "just an imitation"... this show, in classic British-comedy style, has a personality all its own. And it's a very funny personality.
The cast of characters is six single, "twenty/thirty-something" men and women, all with sex on the mind. The characters are fairly well drawn and distinctive, from the first episode onward; they're not necessarily particularly likeable characters, but that's not really necessary to find them amusing. An interesting aspect of Coupling is that the overall focus seems to be on one character, Steve (Jack Davenport); the other characters are important, but mainly insofar as they come into or out of his life. It's a bit different from what I would have expected, but it works very well and may be a factor in how well the episodes hang together.
One of the things that really makes Coupling stand out is its creativity in the fresh way it presents its material. The series' playful cinematography gives the show a polished, film-like feel that's a step beyond the feeling of "camera in front of an open set" of Coupling's antecedents. In general, the choice of material demonstrates a fresh perspective on the time-honored comic possibilities of men, women, and sex, with imaginative renditions in particular of Jeff's (Richard Coyle) assorted bizarre ideas (most memorably, the "giggle loop" in "Sex, Death, and Nudity").
I'll freely admit to being rather a tough case when it comes to comedies... it takes more than just a few jokes to get me to like a comedy. So when I say that Coupling had me laughing out loud in every single episode, it means that the show is really very funny. Unfortunately, it's basically impossible to explain why any of the episodes are as funny as they are, without giving away the whole plot of the episode... and I don't want to spoil them. So you'll have to take my word for it. Or just go ahead and buy the DVD... that's even easier.
This DVD of Coupling includes all six thirty-minute episodes of the first season: "Flushed," "Size Matters," "Sex, Death, and Nudity," "Inferno," "The Girl with Two Breasts," and "The Cupboard of Patrick's Love."
I love the BBC. Not only do they create great stuff, they've embraced the widescreen format for television... and so we get, with Coupling, a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen transfer of the series, in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Yes indeed, it's anamorphically enhanced, even though the case doesn't say anything about it.
The image is of extremely good quality, with a clean, clear picture that's almost entirely free of edge enhancement; the minor amount that's there doesn't detract from the image. Colors are nicely natural-looking and vibrant. The only flaw that I could find with the image is that there's a slight softness to the image.
Coupling is presented with a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack that's more than sufficient for this dialogue-based show. The sound is very clean, and all the dialogue is completely clear and understandable. There's no trace of any background noise or distortion. The theme song ("Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps") is quite appropriate to the show, and also very catchy.
The general organization of the DVD does leave something to be desired. The DVD has an introductory "BBC America" advertisement and a trailer for Absolutely Fabulous, which are fortunately possible to bypass. The one big problem with the menus is the omnipresence of clips from the episodes that play while you are trying to select an episode to watch. We're not talking about brief snippets, either: for each episode's menu, a series of clips plays from each chapter of the episode, in order. Thanks, but I prefer my episodes without spoilers. Making selections quickly will let you get into the episode without seeing too much, but it's a bad idea just the same.
Getting into the actual special features content, the main item of interest is a twenty-minute featurette that offers interviews with the six main cast members as well as several of the filmmakers; it's a nicely-done piece with some substance to it, not just a promotional filler. The other featurette is a three-minute "photo shoot" that is simply a quick look backstage. A fairly detailed cast and crew biography section is included, along with a series of trailers for BBC America (featuring a cute claymation Queen of England), French and Saunders, Father Ted, Blue Planet, and Walking with Dinosaurs.
If you enjoy Seinfeld and Friends, or if you're a fan of British comedy in general, then Coupling is a must-see... especially with the stunning treatment it received in its DVD transfer. This is a well-crafted show that packs a lot of laughs into each thirty-minute episode; it's highly recommended.