Oh my goodness, but Coupling is hilarious! Follow--I was among the early fans of Friends, finding the travails of those young, New York 20-somethings quite engaging when it the series first came on the air, only to rapidly lose interest towards the end when the show began wallowing in absurd self-parody. It gave me nothing to connect with then, and wasn't all that funny (kinda like Adam Sandler).
Around this time I heard of a British version of Friends called Coupling which was supposedly extremely funny but more focused on sex. Naturally, the rights were bought by an American television network and a sucky stateside version was made that died a quick and horrible death. But my curiosity about the original remained. Thanks to Netflix, that curiosity has been satisfied.
First off, this show didn't remind me of Friends all that much. Yes, the general trappings are there--three men, three women in their late 20s/early 30s who hang out at a local bar instead of a coffee shop. They know each other mainly through romantic trysts, and only form a clique by the end of the first episode, which is your typical origin story.
Beyond the superficial resemblance to Friends in the broadest strokes, Coupling reminds me, more than anything else, of the brilliant Fawlty Towers. Granted, those two shows are worlds apart, but there's something about the way Coupling begins each episode on a somewhat sedate note, then lays all the groundwork for whatever situation the characters find themselves in to spiral rapidly out of control. The blazing absurdity is so far over the top, the quirky character so outrageous, the holes they dig themselves so spectacularly deep-- watching Jack Davenport (coincidentally, he also played a lead in the much-missed Swingtown) try to pass off the "plot" a porn video titled "Lesbian Spank Inferno" as an independent film by feminist auteurs comes darn close to John Cleese-level brilliance.
The first episode is a bit of a drag early on as it struggles to establish the characters. It's woefully unfunny for the first 15 minutes or so, a fact it attempts to disguise with an annoyingly over-used laugh track. But once it finds its footing, hilarity ensues, as they say. The remaining five episodes on the season 1 disc are consistently funny from the get-go.
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