Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Preview: Coupling

Thursday night is the premiere of Coupling on NBC. Do yourself a HUGE favor and set your TiVo to start recording the Beeb’s version; The first show of the season will come up in a few weeks or so.

Coupling is the latest television import from Britain, following in the footsteps of The Weakest Link, Trading Spaces, GroundForce, While You Were Out, What Not to Wear, etc. The BBC version of Coupling falls somewhere between Sex and the City and Seinfeld. Smart, sharp writing, likable cast, clever plotlines, fearless subject matters. If you meander over to Radio and Telly, you can see a plot synopsis of the first 3 seasons.

The easy -- and false -- comparison is to Friends, because the ensemble cast has 3 males and 3 female leads, most of whom have been sleeping with each other. That’s about as far as the parallels go.

To me, Friends was always a poor man's answer to Seinfeld. Friends started well, but the clingy, cloy shmaltz was far too sentimental; eventually the show became far too Hollywood, right down to its big season finale wedding cliffhanger (I mean really!).

Coupling’s subject matter covers everything from hiding pornography from your girlfriend, penile inadequacy, the melty man (impotence), breasts with brains, to vibrators. The dialogue was beyond sharp (“Some men are born lucky. Some are born very lucky. Patrick was born a tripod.”) We’ll see if that carries over.

The premiere episode of the BBC version has the following repartee in it:

Susan on Patrick: "One swallow doesn't make a summer."
Steve on Jane: "One swallow does not make her my girlfriend."

Let's see if that carries over to the States . . .

Where Seinfeld’s target audience were the smart 20- and 30-somethings, Friends targeted both younger and dumber, with the fat tail of the demographics rich with teenage girls and suburban wannabes.

Friend’s had some (but not much) in the way of balls, while Seinfeld had big, hairy cojones. The BBC version of Coupling owed much more to Seinfeld in terms of subject matter, tone and attitude. The casual use of the words “Fuck” and “Shit,” in the BBC version obviously won’t make it to NBC; I expect the “implied blow job” -- you see the recipient’s face and hear their moans during the act -- doubtfully won’t either.

The clips I’ve seen of the first NBC show follow the plotline pretty closely; I wonder how much will get lost in translation from English to American -- "two nations divided by a common language."

The one hope for the NBC show is that the orginial writer and producer (Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue) are working behind the remake. Maybe the producers will stay true to the ribald and edgy format. Already, two affiliates -- WNDU in South Bend, Indiana and KSL in (shocker!) Salt Lake City, Utah -- have announced they won’t carry the show.

Perhaps there’s some sliver of hope . . .

Posted at 08:53 AM in Humor, Media | Permalink


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Posted by: Barry Ritholtz | Sep 25, 2003 11:11:20 AM

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