Coupling is a UK sitcom, but from talking to my friends and colleagues, it must be a well kept secret. A lot of people have described it as the UK version of Friends, but the only real link it has with that show is that we have 6 main characters, 3 men (Jeff, Patrick and Steve) and 3 women (Jane, Sally and Susan), but after that, the link really does end. The show focuses on the relationship between Susan and Steve, whom only initially get together in the first episode, when Steve (Davenport) is trying to get rid of his “unflushable” girlfriend, Jane (Bellman) when he meets and arranges a date with Susan in the middle of having sex with Jane in the ladies toilet of a London bar they are in. Yes, if you hadn't guessed from the first 10 minutes of the first episode, this isn't necessarily family entertainment, as it deals with relationships from humble beginnings to starting a family and all points in between, including some you may never have even thought of. Steve and Susan are the sanest of our 6 characters, even if Steve has a thing for lesbian porn and Susan shows her anger with the cunning use of the word apparently. Patrick is our dim-witted character as such, but as he was born a tripod, most women forgive him his shallowness, but then unless you're an attractive woman, he probably wouldn't notice you anyway. Not to mention he is also a Tory and Susan's ex. Sally is his “opposite” as such, with her neurosis of getting older, her skin, her neckline and basically anything that is prone to wrinkling or gravity. She hates Tories, being a Labour supporter and is Susan's best friend. Jane, as mentioned is Steve's ex and is ever so slightly unhinged. She's a radio traffic presenter, bi-sexual (sort of), vegetarian (sort of) and clearly not comfortable with the notion of letting Steve go. Then, there's Jeff. To say Jeff is hard to summarise would be an understatement, he is Steve's best mate, not to mention porn-buddy, is somewhat astounded, confused and bewildered by the opposite sex, but that doesn't stop him from having over 8000 words for the word breast (and counting). However, he is the show's most creative character in terms of things he says and situations he comes into. In fact, he is simply everyone you know including yourself, rolled into one and cranked up to 20.
”You see women as transport for breasts.”
”Hey, I can see past breasts now Steve, I need more than that.”
”Yeah I can tell.
”I need breasts...with brains. I don't mean individual brains, obviously.”
Of course, Jeff and his quotes aren't just the only thing that's great about this program, the whole dynamic works between each character and unlike lots of other sit-coms, it not only works as a stand-alone episode that you catch, but it works so much better when you know the whole storyline - indeed it references itself from episode to episode, such as Spider-Man, or even from season 1 through to season 4, in particular the Inferno video. It works because we can relate - we all know of a girlfriend who is intimidated by the ex because she is perceived as more gorgeous, or the new boyfriend who may be more than a little worried about stepping up to the plate as the ex was a big boy indeed. Ok maybe we've not all had those moments, but we know of them or we can relate to them, because if it hasn't happened to us, we know someone or we even fear it could happen to us - and that's before we even mention the Melty Man. We even learn the rules of dating, what the nudity buffer and a giggle loop are and when we say H...H....H... the only word after it should be hippo. (For those unaware of the nudity buffer, it's 5 minutes and the time it takes for a man to map a woman out completely naked, a giggle loop is the loop of trying not to laugh, but the more you try not to, the more you need to let the laugh out.) It's also worth pointing out that not all episodes, or laughs, come from the deranged Welshman known as Jeff. From Susan and Steve's whistling episode, Jane and her dating of a gay man (as she is bi-sexual), a religious broadcaster and eventually, Oliver and finally Patrick, his run in with the Melty man and playing the game of Coupling with Sally, there's plenty of scope for humorous escapades and embarrassing situations, usually hysterical too.
"I got phoned during sex once.”
”Can we please not hear about it?”
”Bit embarrassing actually. There I was in the middle of some serious full on sex, when my girlfriend phones.”
”That's very embarrassing”
”She kept going on and on about how I was ignoring her.”
”Well you don't think it was maybe because you were having sex with somebody else?”
”No no, I was having sex with her."
The best thing though is the scripts, impressively written and just superbly calculated. Witness the first episodes of both season 3 and 4, the first one being split down the middle with the boys on one side and the girls on the other and you see the story unfold from two perspectives, not to mention how events on one side can relate to ones on the other. The other episode, 9 ½ minutes, says it all - we see three views of the same 9 and a half minutes, which the first time around is amusing, but by the end it is hysterical, because it all makes a lot more sense and has some great situations, not to mention a wonderful comparison between childbirth and “the John Hurt moment” from Alien. If you really need to be sold anymore on how well written the scripts are, consider that the creator/writer of this show is the same writer that wrote arguably the best of the latest Doctor Who series (the 1940's 2-parter). In fact, a Dalek appears in season 4, such is the obvious fact that the writer clearly likes Who, so it's not a complete shock that he a) wrote an episode and b) was arguably the best one.
”Y'know for a minute there, I thought I was having a date with my gynaecologist”
”Oh christ, I'm sorry it's just such a short skirt.”
This truly is, in my opinion, one of the greatest British comedies to have appeared in many, many years. Sure some people like Ab Fab, which I didn't find funny, some people raved over The Office, yet again, something that couldn't raise anything other than indifference, but this show is so much fun, because you can relate to it, laugh at it and with it and then quote it back to everyone at work, in a similar way to how we quote Monty Python constantly (Ni!). Miss this and you'll miss a completely wonderful show - and I know it's a hidden treasure as I've had to share it with all bar one of my friends and colleagues - and not one disliked it! As Patrick would say, “Nice”.
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