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Coupling on DVD

Season One
Season Two
Season Three
Season Four

Superficially like Friends, if only for the fact that the cast consists of three guys and three girls, Coupling (which has also been shown on US PBS), is a very British sitcom in the grand tradition of the BBC.

It’s also very dirty, though without nudity or gratuity, since it’s basically concerned with the sextet’s obsession with sex and relationship building. Throw in the eternal battle of the sexes, and you have a funny, funny series about modern British Man versus modern British Woman.

The show revolves around the six singles, each of whom brings his own baggage to the table, trying to balance their sexual appetites with their varying insecurities, though it all revolves for the most part around sex and dating.

The most disappointing thing about having the complete first season on DVD is that it only consists of six episodes, and they fly along so quickly their half hour running times are gone while you’re just getting interested.

As is typical of the best British sitcoms, it’s the writing that sparkles, in this case courtesy of scribe Stephen Moffat. The cast is all very good, but as they say “if it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage” and the British seem to have a knack for making intelligent and witty sitcoms that work not only because of a likeable cast such as this one, but because they’re actually funny and don’t have to resort to canned laughter or bathroom humor.

That said, there does appear to be some canned laughter here, though it’s unnecessary - and there's definitely bathroom humor. But it looks as if someone actually cleans this bathroom...

The single disc DVD of season one is very good. We noticed with joy that it’s presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is fine. Audio is Dolby Digital and though it appears to be monaural, it’s fine for a sitcom.

You even get a few extras, though nothing really spectacular. There’s about a twenty minute segment of interviews with the cast, print bios of each cast member as well as the major talents behind the scenes, and a short thing shot at a photo shoot promoting the series.

But forget the extras and dive into the six episodes:

Episode One, Flushed, introduces us to each of the characters and sees some of them introduced to each other for the first time. We also get to see whacked out weirdo Jane (Gina Bellman) refusing to accept that Steve (Jack Davenport) is breaking off their relationship and starting over again with Susan (Sarah Alexander).

Episode Two, Size Matters is exactly what the dirty-minded will assume it’s about - though it’s also about more than that. Steve and Susan's relationship is now chugging along, while the looks-obsessed (her own, at least) Sally (Kate Isitt) is horrified to find that Patrick (Ben Miles) possesses political beliefs that shouldn’t be allowed in polite company. Yep, she's a lefty.

Episode Three, Sex, Death and Nudity, is bloody hilarious. It finds everyone winding up at the funeral of Jane's aunt - for a variety of reasons, while accountant Jeff (Richard Coyle), freaking out about a job interview, is convinced to imagine his interviewers naked to put him at ease.

Episode Four, Inferno, introduces us to Steve's collection of pornography and when Jane brings her shrink to a dinner party of the friends, all heck breaks out as they tackle weighty issues such as art versus porn.

Episode Five, The Girl with Two Breasts, sees Jeff tries to strike up a relationship with an attractive Israeli woman who doesn't speak a word of English. The section where they reverse languages is very funny, indeed - and, no, the Israeli isn’t the girl with two breasts. Well, okay, she does have two breasts…

Episode Six, The Cupboard of Patrick's Love, has Susan discovering that her ex (who just happens to be Patrick) has a huge collection of videotapes of his sexual encounters - including one with her.

Coupling, the Complete First Season, from Warner Home Video
175 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital audio
Starring Susan Alexander, Gina Bellman, Richard Coyle, Jack Davenport, Kate Isitt, Ben Miles
Produced by Beryl Verture
Written by Stephen Moffat, Directed by Martin Dennis


Season 2

We pick up approximately where we left off in Season One. Susan and Steve are still in their relationship, while the rest of them are still looking.

A bonus for fans is that the second season ups the episode ante by 50 per cent, bringing us nine half hours - though it still isn't nearly enough!

We haven't laughed at a sitcom this much since Fawlty Towers - which is high praise indeed!

Episode one: The Man With Two Legs. Jeff finally screws up the courage to speak to his dream woman, but in his inimitable fashion he puts his foot into it - literally! While trying not to say something stupid, he says something really, really stupid, with hilarious results!

Episode two: My Dinner in Hell. This episode deals mostly with masturbation - in a very funny way, as Steve entertains Susan's very liberal parents at dinner. Do you know how to whistle?

Episode three: Her Best Friend's Bottom. Steve pops into Susan's apartment unannounced, interrupting a very naked Sally. Nice of her to keep him abreast!

Episode four: The Melty Man Cometh. Patrick faces impotence for the first time in his life, while Sally, at whose hands he faced impotence, faces her own insecurity in not being able to turn Patrick into an upstanding citizen.

Episode five: Jane and the Truth Snake. Janes loses her job as a traffic reporter and decides to become a kids' show host. Shades of "Soap's" great Chuck and Bob characters as her puppet alter ego unleashes the fires of hell.

Episode six: Gotcha. Susan and Steve are about to celebrate their first anniversary when a wedding invitation shows up at Steve's house, freaking him out and making his examine his own relationship. Is it time to be a man?

Episode seven: Dressed. Jane's clothing sense blows up in her face when she's invited to dinner at a new beau's house.

Episode eight: Naked. Jeff, 30th birthday approaching, finally manages - just - to begin a relationship. It's with his boss, though.

Episode nine: The End of the Line. Our least favorite of the series, though it's still darn funny. It ends with a kind of cliffhanger that makes us pine for season three. In this one, Steve stupidly swaps phone numbers with a woman he meets in a bar, while Susan's past liaisons come back to haunt her.

These descriptions don't even come close to doing the show justice. Watch them! You'll laugh until you think your pants will never dry.

Audio quality is good but not great. Though it's presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), which we love, we noticed some digital artifacts at some of the edit points. Not nearly enough to spoil our enjoyment, however. Audio is Dolby Digital stereo, and though the audio quality is fine it sure sounded like mono to us.

The nine episodes are spread over two discs, and you also get some extras that are really just gravy. There are commentary tracks by the cast, producer Sue Vertue, and writer Steve Moffat, cast bios, and interviews with producer Sue Vertue and writer Steve Moffat, as well as some trailers.

Coupling, the Complete Second Season, from Warner Home Video
270 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital stereo audio
Starring Susan Alexander, Gina Bellman, Richard Coyle, Jack Davenport, Kate Isitt, Ben Miles
Produced by Beryl Verture
Written by Stephen Moffat

Season 3

Season 3

Steve and Sue were on the outs at the end of Season 2. Will Season 3 bring them back together to live happily every after or will they be condemned to live always looking for and needing a relationship but unable to find such happiness?

Well you don't think we're going to give that away here, do you?

Coupling is the flip side of the typical American sitcom coin. While it deals with modern sex and relationships and is quite explicit and, shall we say randy, it's never potty mouth for the sake of being potty mouth and its characters and situations are handled with wit and creativity that ends up making you laugh out loud over and over again - even if you find some of the discussion a tad beyond the boundaries of polite taste.

Season 3 moves along the lives of all six characters, logically and engagingly and hilariously. There's quite a bit of split screen that lets us see life from both male and female point of view at the same time, with really funny observations about how the sexes look at things so differently. Example: in one episode two of the characters are remembering the time they first met and the topic of transportation (how they got to a party they were attending) came up. The man remembers telling her he arrived in a BMW M3 with sequential manual transmission and the like, while she clearly remembers him as saying he'd arrived in a car.

And of course there are other situations that reverse such a scenario with the men unable to comprehend what the heck it is the woman is talking about. Potpourri comes to mind.

This two disc set contains all 7 episodes, commentary, bloopers and a photo gallery. There are also bios.

The ensemble is very comfortable together, or so it appears, and this translates into a comfort the audience gets from these very different personalities.

Picture quality is disappointing. The DVD is anamorphic widescreen, which is exactly as it should be, but the picture seems inferior to the first two seasons. Audio is also unremarkable.

Therefore, this is not a DVD you'll use as a demo to show off your home theater - you'll have to save it for those times when you're showing off your culture and taste rather than your technology.

And that's where Coupling excels. This is the funniest series that we've seen in a long time, perhaps since Fawlty Towers. Now, we're not trying to compare the two series; they're very different. The thing that they have in common is that they make us laugh over and over, rich belly laughs. Most sitcoms barely make us smile and you can often tell what line's coming next in the typical sitcom before it's uttered.

Forgive us if we sound a tad pompous; it isn't that Coupling is an intellectual show suitable only for the elite. It isn't. Its characters are rich and believable and the situations combine "mind jokes" as well as good old fasioned slapstick.

Season 3's episodes:

Split. Susan is furious. Steve is indecisive. Both seek refuge in The Temple of Woman.

Faithless. Jane finds herself competing with the Supreme Being of the Universe. Jeff finds himself a rabbit in Wilma's headlights.

Unconditional Sex. Jeff's dilemma: A beautiful woman and an offer he cannot accept.

Remember This. Are Patrick and Sally suffering from a case of arachnophobia?

The Freckle, The Key and the Couple Who Weren't. Steve doesn't have eyes in his bottom and Jeff swallows the key to the handcuffs.

The Girl With One Heart. Sally is lonely, unhappy and unfulilled. Then she goes and spoils it all.

Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps. Three eggs, three women, three possibilities.

Coupling, Season 3, from Warner Home Entertainment
210 min. anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Jack Davenport, Gina Bellman, Sarah Alexander, Kate Isitt, Ben Miles, Richard Coyle
Produced by Sue Vertue
Written by Steven Moffat

Season 3

Season 4

Season 4 is easily the series' weakest, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth seeing or that it isn't funny.

Bad news: we lose Jeff (well, mostly and sort of), to see him replaced by comic book guy from The Simpsons (well, mostly and sort of). Nothing against the new guy, Oliver, but Jeff was funnier. Not having Jeff's bizarre silliness is a severe blow to the series and it doesn't really recover.

Susan is now with child, well, a child other than Steve - and this fact is freaking out Steve. Steve is having dreams of his own execution and is generally being shallow and pretty much of a jerk - albeit a funny one.

The relationship between Patrick and Sally has blossomed and they're getting serious, and they're discovering that a relationship isn't always a bed of roses set to music.

And Jane, well Jane is still Jane.

There are plenty of funny situations and typically Stephen Moffat touches such as multiple viewpoints of storylines, dream sequences, etc. And of course it's still very dirty and very witty.

But as hard as we laughed we also noticed the tone was more serious and even more coarse as the language was lowered include the use of the so-called "F-word" on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, a lot of the stuff Steve goes through really hits home as being close to real life, only made larger than life for comedic purposes, and that works really well.

Season Four shows the characters maturing, which is probably about time, and so there's a kind of a bittersweet edge to it as these people realize they're growing up and are having a bit of a hard time letting go of their immaturity. After all, being immature is more fun and there's less responsibility.

Just ask a liberal.

So despite our angst about Season Four, we recommend it and look forward to the next set of episodes.

The picture is 16x9 widescreen, as are all seasons, and the picture quality is good. Audio is Dolby Digital stereo and it's fine as well.

Disc two contains outtakes, deleted scenes, a "making of" documentary, cast bios, and an interview with the new Jeff, er, Oliver, Richard Mylan.

Season 4's episodes:

1.) 9 1/2 Minutes - One bar. Three different points of view.

2.) Nightlines - The late night phone call that simply will not end.

3.) Bed Time - Since the dawn of time, men and women have been falling in love, and men have been trying to get home straight afterwards.

4.) Circus of the Epidurals - The ghost of Lesbian Spank Inferno haunts Steve and Susan's birthing class.

5.) The Naked Living Room - Can a man win the heart of a woman when his apartment is a little "undedited"?

6.) 9 1/2 Months - Susan is in labor, Jane is naked and Sally opens a box labeled "Sally, don't look in this box."



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Updated May 13, 2006