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BBC Video presents
Coupling: Series 1 (2000)

"I love the word naked. It's brilliant isn't it, 'naked'? When I was a kid I used to write the word 'naked' on a bit of paper hundreds of times and rub my face in it."
- Jeff (Richard Coyle)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: January 19, 2003

Stars: Jack Davenport, Sarah Alexander
Other Stars: Gina Bellman, Kate Isitt, Ben Miles, Richard Coyle
Director: Martin Dennis

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong sexual humor and language)
Run Time: 02h:55m:12s
Release Date: January 21, 2003
UPC: 794051171320
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B+B C

DVD Review

Coupling, a smash in England since it debuted there in 2000, wears its influences on its sleeve. The obvious comparison is to Friends, which is just as popular in England as it is in America. Both shows revolve around six companions, three men and three women, who, if they aren't sleeping with one another, are talking about sleeping with one another. There are also quite a few elements of Seinfeld in evidence, as both shows introduce cutesy names for those universally difficult situations, like "the giggle loop" (that unstoppable desire to laugh during a funeral) or "the Unflushable", referring to a significant other that you just can't seem to break up with. I'm actually most reminded of Sex and the City, as both focus on bawdy sexual talk and situations over Friends-style character interaction.

And if Coupling has a fault, it's that the characters remain paper thing throughout the season. The reason Friends has endured is that, despite some questionable plotlines, the characters remain an unbreakable unit, one that you love to watch together. I don't really get the same feel from Coupling. Good thing, then, that it is so incredibly funny, tackling sexual taboos with a refreshing British twist. Certainly this material would never air on network television in the States—we must look to HBO and other cable outlets for such straightforward humor.

The cast is great, too, despite the somewhat limiting material. Steve (Jack Davenport) is the affable everyman; Jeff (Richard Coyle) is a loveable dope; and Patrick (Ben Miles) never lets his mind wander too far from breasts and bums. Meanwhile, the ladies are just as game. Jane (Gina Bellman) can't decide if she's bisexual or bivegitarian; Sally (Kate Isitt) constantly freaks out about the aging process (and keeps her face cream close at hand); and Susan (Sarah Alexander), the closest thing to a well-rounded character, manages to keep her cool despite Steve's constant insecurities.

This disc includes all six episodes of Series One.

Episode 1: Flushed
Originally aired 5-12-2000

"Sex can be very stressful for men. You judge us on technique, sensitivity, stamina... We're just happy if you're naked... half-naked... one breast." - Jeff

The premiere episode is actually the weakest of the bunch, and the one that feels the most like a clone of long-established American sit-coms. The premise of the series—one diverse group of friends forming after two of them begin a relationship—is established fairly quickly, as Steve and Susan both break up with their current love interests (Jane and Patrick, respectively) and quickly develop an interest in each other. The character introductions are funny, but at this point, they're entirely one note. Jane's ditziness emerges as she refuses to accept Steve's decision to end the relationship (a plot stolen directly from Seinfeld, by the way), and Patrick, ever the shallow one, quickly moves on to the next gal, Susan's friend Sally. A decent setup, but certainly not as funny as subsequent episodes, and the ending, which revolves around Susan having to flash an entire restaurant, is a fairly contrived attempt at risqué&eaccute; humor.

3.5 pints of lager and lime will keep you warm on those lonely London evenings.

Episode 2: Size Matters
Originally aired 5-19-2000

"My advice is to get them off right after your shoes and before your trousers—that's the sock gap. Miss it and suddenly you're a naked man in socks. No self-respecting woman will let a naked man in socks do the squelchy with her." - Jeff

Susan invites Steve over for a "home-cooked dinner," which Jeff and Patrick assure him is a codeword for an X-rated evening. This of course, makes him quite nervous, since he's not sure how he'll measure up to Patrick (who Susan tells Sally was gifted at birth with "a tripod"). There's also the problem of "the Sock Gap," the crucial moment in a sexual encounter when a man must removes his socks or risk appearing wearing them only. Steve's apprehension is pretty funny (particularly when he discovers something unusual about Susan's use of batteries), but the real highlight is Sally's struggle over whether she can date a "large man," even if he is a Tory. The fact that I know next to nothing about the political goings-on in England does nothing to diminish the humor of her enraged outbursts.

A hearty 4 pints.

Episode 3: Sex, Death, and Nudity
Originally aired 5-26-2000

Sally: Trust me, death is the best argument for moisturizer.
Patrick: You can't prevent death with face cream.
Sally: Yeah, that's what everyone thinks. But no one has ever used it in the quantities I do.

Steve is once again flustered after his ex Jane calls him up crying, telling him her Auntie has died, and asks him to attend the funeral. At first, he says he can't go, since he's now with Susan—the Aunt died too late, she's out of the "Boyfriend Zone" (lots of zones on this show)—but Susan says he should go, and she'll come too. The problem is that Jane hasn't told her family that they've broken up, requiring Steve to pretend, which spurs Susan to invite her ex, Patrick, to pretend to be her date... except Steve already has invited Jeff to do just that. Refreshingly, Susan is able to figure out Steve is lying, so we don't have to endure a Three's Company-style misunderstanding, and Sally's sub-plot about her fear of death is the funniest of the first series.

Feeling tipsy yet? Drink 4.5 more.

Episode 4: Inferno
Originally aired 6-2-2000

Jeff: Wouldn't that be great?
Steve: What?
Jeff: Being a lesbian. All the advantages of being a man, but with less embarrassing genitals. Plus, every time you have sex, there's four breasts—two guest breasts, and two you can take home afterwards. It's bloody brilliant!

Another fairly funny outing follows the sitcom formula of the out-of-control dinner party. Everyone comes over to eat with Susan and Steve, and hilarity ensues. Susan is angry with Steve for owning the porn tape "Lesbian Spank Inferno" (which doesn't really make sense, considering her open attitudes about sex, and the fact that Jeff told her about his role as Steve's "porn-buddy" in the first episode), while Jane arrives with her shrink, who everyone assumes is her girlfriend (resulting in a fairly amusing, if totally unrealistic, conversation between her and Steve about Jane's "sessions"). Oh, and despite the fact that he's a Joey clone, Patrick borrows from Chandler's plots when everyone thinks he has homosexual hair.

Check your B.A.C. and chug 4 pints.

Episode 5: The Woman with Two Breasts
Originally aired 6-9-2000

"You know what, there's something I've always wanted to say and, uh, now I feel that at long last I can. Breasts. Breasts, breasts, breasts, breasts, breasts!" - Jeff

One of the weaker episodes of the season, if only because it's fairly predictable. Jeff notices a beautiful woman eyeing him from across the bar, but when he approaches her, it turns out she doesn't speak a word of English (which is actually quite fortunate, after his rambling speech about collecting women's ears). This results in a dual conversation between the two, where we first see his side, then hers, and of course, both think they're talking about entirely different things. It's worth it, in the end, for his parting remark to her, his attempt to say goodbye in Hebrew—"Five minutes, breasts."

Pick yourself up off the floor and gulp another 3.5 pints.

Episode 6: The Cupboard of Patrick's Love
Originally aired 6-16-2000

"It's not Steve's fault. You can't blame Steve. It's the cupboard's fault. There's too much nudity in the cupboard." - Jeff

The season ends on a high note with this episode, one so good that Friends ripped off the plot this past season. Jane, "gagging for a shag" shows up at Patrick's apartment, and stumbles across his "Cupboard of Love," where he stores tapes of all the women he has slept with—including Susan, which presents a problem for Steve. Should he watch the tape? What if Susan does stuff with Patrick that she won't do with him? She had "boyfriend sex" with Patrick, but she's having "commitment sex" with him. Susan's reaction when she finally discovers the tape is pretty darn funny, particularly when she learns that she has been taped over. The season ends with the first real moment of the character interaction of the type Friends is famous for, as Steve and Susan threaten to become Coupling's Ross and Rachel.

Make an appointment to have your stomach pumped before you take on a final 5 pints.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Coupling looks quite a bit better than most BBC productions that have made their way to DVD. It does still have that video look that is normal for the lower-budgeted British series, but that isn't really detrimental—colors aren't eye-popping, but they are crisp and natural. Blacks are solid enough, but the night scenes suffer from some contrast problems at times, and at times it's a little difficult to make out details in the dark. Source material looks very clean, though I did spot some grain here and there (mostly in the outdoors scenes, which were shot on film). Artifacting or aliasing is never readily apparent.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a fairly basic DD 2.0 track, one which presents the material simply and effectively. Dialogue is always clear, anchored in the center but with bleeding to the front mains. There is good balance between dialogue and music, but nothing in the way of directionality or panning. The surrounds are mostly silent throughout, though they do occasionally augment the laugh track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring BBC America, French and Saunders, Father Ted, The Blue Planet, Walking with Dinosaurs
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. The Photo Shoot
Extras Review: Coupling comes packaged with some decent extras, but the package isn't quite impressive as some of BBC Videos' previous sets (Absolutely Fabulous in particular). The included documentary is nice, but I would have loved a cast commentary or two. Maybe for the next series.

The Behind the Scenes Interviews run for about 20 minutes, and are broken down into eight sub-topics: "The Characters," "Would I Hang Out With Me," "The Personal Ads: Men Seeking Women," "The Personal Ads: Women Seeking Men," "Creating Coupling," "What Makes Coupling Great," "My Favorite Episode" and "Life Before Coupling." As you can tell by the titles, there's a mix of production info and PR fluff (though it's mostly the latter). Through interviews with the actors, the writer, and the executive producer, we learn all about the genesis of the series and about the characters (which will be redundant once you've actually watched the show). It's an interesting piece, but likely something that you'll only want to watch once.

The Photo Shoot is an odd little three-minute inclusion. Watch the cast climb awkwardly into bed together and endured a publicity photo shoot. A good argument for not becoming famous is having to have your picture taken for an entire afternoon.

Extensive, informative bios for the cast and crew are a nice touch, considering how foreign many of the actors will be to American audiences. Rounding out the disc are trailers for BBC America (I called my local cable company, and they said they had no plans to offer it at this time... sigh), and BBC DVD releases of French and Saunders, Father Ted, The Blue Planet, and Walking with Dinosaurs.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

If you like Friends, you'll like Coupling. Sure, the comparison may be a little shopworn, but only because it's true. Both shows tackle relationship issues head on, and manage to find truth in the most outrageous, contrived sitcom situations. It's just that Coupling is a little bit dirtier. And leave it to the Brits to prove their intellectual superiority by titling the series with a pun. Wankers.


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