Coupling is about six friends, three men and three women. Sounds like a familiar setup, but it's not actually a British ripoff of Friends. Even though it sort of has a Phoebe and a Joey and a Chandler and perhaps even a Ross. Possibly a Rachel and Monica. Except the show is about Ross dating Monica, so let's not go that route. Anyway, Moffat says he was more inspired by Seinfeld and its cleverly intertwining plotlines. Another inspiration? His own relationship with his wife, which is what forms the basis for the series: he even names the main characters after himself and his wife.
Steve (played by Jack Davenport of Captain Norrington fame) is the Everyman. He is an advocate for men all over, but not in a chauvinistic, macho way. In that high-pitched, squeaky way (it's really amusing to listen to Jack Davenport's two registers). Endearing even when twattish, Steve represents such manly ideals as Finding Lesbians Hot and Only Wanting One Thing. He is prone to dramatic monologues, especially at dinner parties.
Jeff, Steve's best friend, is like a Welsh Barney Stinson without any of the confidence or success with women. He comes up with concepts like the Nudity Buffer and the Sock Gap to describe various observations he has made about human behavior. It becomes quite apparent that Jeff spends far too much time thinking. And not enough time actually talking to women, as is evident when we actually get to see him attempt to do such things. You really never know what's going to come out of Jeff's mouth, and the fun thing is, neither does he, so he usually tries to backpedal, which usually makes things worse. It's adorably awkward.
Patrick is like a British Barney Stinson without any of the intelligence. He is an advocate for men all over—in a chauvinistic, macho way. We've seen this character a hundred times, the slightly dim lothario who doesn't see much use for women besides sex, but with the right acting/writing combination, he's still a hit. Patrick can be surprisingly lovable if only for his naivety.
Susan (played by Sarah Alexander of Green Wing fame) is a petite, perky blonde. She used to date Patrick, but now she's dating Steve, and their relationship is the central one of the series. We watch it grow and overcome those growing pains. I suppose she is the Everywoman, if the Everywoman is kind of boring. Wikipedia calls her "sensible and organised." Let's go with that. And insecure. Like women are. (Not that the men aren't.)
Sally, Susan's best friend, owns a beauty parlor and is obsessed with her appearance. Especially her bottom. She worries about finding a man before it's too late and all her wrinkles start to show. Although she's a bit snappish and brusque, which made it hard for me to like her, the affection she develops for Patrick endeared her to me.
Jane is Steve's ex-girlfriend, and she is bonkers. Slightly insane characters are always fun because they say the darndest things. Jane sees the world very, very, very differently from ordinary people, and she doesn't usually acknowledge that there is any difference in your viewpoints. Gina Bellman is totally awesome in the role, selling all the nonsense she spits out and even making you feel bad for her when she's nonsensically hurt.
So what does Steven Moffat do with these six characters? Well, he spends four seasons and 28 episodes discussing sex, male-female relations, sex, men, sex, and women. It's kind of fascinating, really, to have it all sort of concentrated into one show—and one British show, where they can actually say things and be frank. What's up with men? What's up with women? Can't we all just get along and have sex? And sometimes not have sex, I guess? Steven Moffat has the answers! Or the questions, at least.
And how does he do it? Well, it turns out that duchessdogberry was spot-fucking-on with her How I Met Your Mother comparison because Coupling uses a lot of the same techniques (before HIMYM did, of course!). Many of the episodes are structured around two characters retelling events (one male and one female, so we see the different ways the genders react to things), and the stories are interrupted with digressions and filled with misleads due to the stop-start nature of the storytelling. We get some unreliable narrators with stories told from different perspectives. We get wonky non-linear storytelling. Coupling goes even further than HIMYM, though. Not content with traditional mold-breaking techniques, it will sometimes go completely out of the box in brilliant ways I would not even dream of spoiling because they're so hilarious and unexpected. Suffice it to say that Coupling thrives on its creativity.
Coupling is incredibly hilarious. I do not recommend watching it while eating, as there is a great danger of either choking or spitting your food out onto your monitor/TV. It's also very addictive. I kept experiencing Coupling withdrawal when I went too long between episodes. The characters are just so much fun you want to see them again.