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Coupling? More Like Mariella Frostruppling! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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August 12th, 2008


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10:57 pm - Coupling? More Like Mariella Frostruppling!
Now that Steven Moffat is taking over Doctor Who, I figured I should finally check out Coupling, his popular British comedy that was infamously remade as an unpopular American comedy.

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.
Current Mood: hornynot having sex
Current Music: Marilyn Manson - (s)AINT

(53 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:cerulgalactus
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
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Coupling is one of those shows that I avoided like the plague when it was first run, due mostly to its Friends-alike first glimpse nature. However, a few years later, I watched it when it was rerun on cable over here, and found myself really digging it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
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Yeah, it may have a similar setup/character distribution, but otherwise, it's not really like Friends so much.

Plus, they all have their own flats!
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From:chasethestars
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
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Hell, I just watched it last month and could watch it again now.

It's adorably awkward.
Those are the same words I used!

Jane drove me nuts, almost to the point where I'd want to grind my teeth too. But there were likable moments as well.

I haven't seen HIMYM or many Friends episodes. Loved the characters and storytelling in Coupling though.

haha, nice current mood. (or not so nice)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
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I found Jane a little annoying at first, but she soon became one of my favorite characters. She was just so damn funny, unbeknownst to her.

If you like the storytelling in Coupling, you should check out HIMYM. As I said, they use similar techniques.
From:sabra_n
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
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I AM GISELLE.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
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Heeeeeeeeeee. That episode was so awesome.
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From:truemyth
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
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Three thumbs up for Coupling. It is such a good, fun romp. The structure and jokes in "The Girl with Two Breasts" is probably my favorite. I think the show stops being about Susan and Steve after season two, but that's neither here nor there.

I've come to think of the trio of each gender as a sort of modified Id, Ego, Super-Ego combo. Jane and Patrick (the exs) are mostly governed by id. They have a drive that says "me, me, me" and the fact that they aren't totally annoying owes a lot to the charisma of the actors and the skill of the writing. Susan and Steve are mainly operating on an ego level, thinking things through (mostly). They are the characters most likely to operate well in the real, real world. They seem like the most realistic of the characters, which is why they are sometimes a bit boring. Finally, the best friends, Sally and Jeff, are walking super-egos, but not the high-minded variety. They are the voice that tells you about all the things you could do to fuck up your life. Remember that moisturizer! Don't laugh at the wrong time! Constantly think, "Is this person right for me? Is it worth spending time with them if they are not?" What would people - or, god help us, your MOTHER - think if they could see you right now?

Originally, the story was Susan and Steve, as the egos of young 30-somethings everywhere, learning to balance the drives of the Id and the hyper-thinking of the Super-ego, while communicating with each other and discovering the last relationship of the rest of their lives.

... But maybe I'm thinking about it too much. Excuse me while I go looking for a Pole-vaulter Donkey Man.
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
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... But maybe I'm thinking about it too much. Excuse me while I go looking for a Pole-vaulter Donkey Man.


And you can always buy a Junior Patrick if that doesn't work out.
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From:porpentine
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
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In honor of this post...It's TIME TO DANCE!
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
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Heh. You just completely left Oliver out of the final equation. Good call.

I thought of another Series 4 redeemer at work, though: The ever increasing Doctor Who mentions.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
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Yes! I enjoyed those.

And, well, yeah, there's really no reason to include Oliver in this post. No one's going to be all, "Damn, I can't wait to get through the first three seasons so I can get to OLIVER."
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From:evilstmars
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
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I think I experienced "Coupling", particularly its last season, so very differently from some others because I was married and had a child. I will say that the last episodes, from the perspective of having had said child, were some of the most truthful on that topic I've seen from a sitcom.

Also, clearly I am odd, because Sally and Patrick and the way both characters progress are my favorite parts of the series as a whole. (This may be because I'm a bit of a Sally myself.) I love all six of them, but I love how things progress there.
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From:truemyth
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
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I am odd, because Sally and Patrick and the way both characters progress are my favorite parts of the series as a whole.

If that makes one odd, call me number 7.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 10:44 am (UTC)
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Oh, if you know Hebrew, you're just laughing earlier, from what I hear. Heh.

I am really surprised that more people don't make the HIMYM/Coupling comparison. The storytelling is very similar. Plus, they both overcome having a laugh track!
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From:ashfae
Date:August 13th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
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I've only seen a few episodes, but oh, I love them. The cushion rant remains my favorite. Wheee!!!!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 10:41 am (UTC)
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What are they for?? Steve has a point!
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From:lynevere
Date:August 13th, 2008 09:20 am (UTC)
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Yay, Coupling. We just watched the first season, and Season #2 is on its way. I hadn't really connected Coupling to HIMYM yet (maybe because I anticipated that Coupling would couple every permutation of man/woman), but that does explain why I like the storytelling. It's definitely funnier than I expected, and I love Jeff's theories and catchphrases.

Do you know why the US version did so poorly? Was the tone wrong?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)
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I don't know. I mean, they were using essentially the same scripts, so you have to fault...everything else. The cast, the direction, the tone. I watched a couple clips, and it just falls weirdly flat for some reason. The Steve is awful. Of course, I remember seeing a bit of the Giggle Loop episode back in the day and not seeing the big deal about why it was so bad, per se, but I also had no idea what was going on, anyway.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
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I love Jeff and Jane too! The fourth season without Jeff is sad because there's no Jeff, and the Jeff substitute is certainly no Jeff. The giggle loop episode was actually a little disappointing because the punchline to that storyline wasn't as raucous as I was expecting. But the idea is great.
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From:pandora_17
Date:August 13th, 2008 02:53 pm (UTC)
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You need to start adding links or guiding people in the right direction to find the things you post about. Damn your incredible powers of influence! *trudges off to the internets*
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
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It's easy enough to Google! Or go to Amazon. Or...various torrent sites.

Or YouTube. I think it's all on YouTube. Or at least parts.
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From:queenal
Date:August 13th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
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Coupling is an oddly under-rated show - probably because its specs don't seem quirky enough to be 'cult,' even if the way they tell the stories often are.

I'd definitely say Susan is Rachel, not Monica, though. Sally is Monica - they're both neurotic control-freaks with OCD, after all. That said, I do like Susan too; Jane I didn't love until the naked-under-a-coat episode.

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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 13th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Sally's obsession with her appearance seemed more of a Rachel thing than a Monica thing to me, but it would certainly map better if Susan was Rachel, of course.

I think I started loving Jane in the latter half of the first season, and my love was probably cemented in "Jane and the Truth Snake." Gina Bellman rocked the hell out of the titular scene.
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From:dlgood
Date:August 13th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
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Coupling is great. The American version rightly bombed, because they did a lot of things wrong. They tried to do a shot-for-shot, line-for-line copy, instead of adapting/re-envisioning for an American audience. The cast didn't really grasp the characters. And they had a sucky Jeff. I know Steve and Susan are the main characters, but for me, Richard Coyle made the show.
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From:mycenae
Date:August 13th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)

I'VE GOT TOO MANY LEGS!

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I am so, so excited for Steven Moffat's reign at Doctor Who.

I went to the Comic Con Doctor Who panel and it was just Moffat and this other writer, but he completely dominated. It was hilarious, and it really was like having all the characters from Coupling just sort of rambling, in a vaguely Doctor Who-related way. Someone asked about Ten leaving Rose with pseudo-Ten in the other universe and Moffat goes, "You know, that's actually a rather brilliant way to get rid of a rather clingy girlfriend. He tried just leaving her in a parallel dimension from which there is no return, but no, she came back. So he leaves her there with a different version of himself. Clever." And I was just like that is such a Patrick thing to say OMG. I know he had other similar Coupling-esque comments, but I can't remember them speficially. I do remember the other writer going, "Steven, you're talking about dating again." "Steven, we agreed you weren't going to talk about dating."

I find Coupling endlessly rewatchable. It's one of those shows I put on a random episode of when I need a pick-me-up or just want to be happily amused for a short while. Jeff is definitely my favorite.

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