Coupling: Season 4
August 17, 2005
Essentially a racier, British version of Friends, Coupling has survived a disastrous attempt at Americanization and the departure of popular cast member Richard Coyle. The addition of Richard Mylan to the cast is hardly a substitute for Coyle who was arguably the funniest cast member on the show but he is fine in his own way and the quality of the writing is still top notch.
When we last left the characters, Steve (Davenport) and Susan (Alexander) found out that there were going to have a baby. Sally (Isitt) and Patrick (Miles) finally hooked up and are in a relationship together. Jane (Bellman), well, she’s gone on being Jane. This season sees the practical, level-headed Susan and neurotic Steve dealing with impending parenthood which provides plenty of comedic fodder.
Patrick, the dim-witted ladies’ man, is getting acclimatized to being with only one woman and realizing that he has to think of someone other than himself. In the season’s first episode he has to decide between an annual golf match with buddies or sex with Sally. Oliver (Mylan), the film geek, finds himself attracted to the stunning but dumb Jane.
In an attempt to keep things fresh and interesting, series creator and writer Stephen Moffat plays around with the standard sitcom structure in the season opener. He introduces Oliver by playing over the same scene but from three different points of view. Applying the conceit from Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) is a novel idea that works quite well.
The quality of the show’s writing is still excellent. For example, in one episode Steve refers to child birth as the John Hurt bit, a reference to the slimy creature that bursts out of his chest in Alien (1979). He also describes a child birthing video as “horror porn,” – seeing a face coming out of a place where one shouldn’t. However, the pairing up of the cast has the potential for disaster as the thrill of the chase is now gone. Of course, this presents a new series of comedic possibilities as the dynamic between couples is explored. Moffat also continues his spot-on parodies of British popular culture, including one clever bit where Patrick imagines himself in an episode of The Prisoner when he’s actually having sex with Sally.
Coupling seems to be following the same trajectory as Friends with the pairing off of cast members—albeit in a more condensed form and funnier too as the BBC allows the show to deal with the same subject matter (sex, relationships, marriage, etc.) but in a raunchier fashion.
“Making of Coupling—‘From Script to Screen’” is a 43-minute featurette that traces the development of an episode from the writing phase to rehearsals to actual filming. Now in its fourth season, the process is much more polished. This is a good look at how the show is put together.
There are ten minutes of outtakes that include your usual blown lines and flubs but in a way that conveys how much fun the cast must have working on this show.
Also included are eight and half minutes of deleted scenes that include more of Steve’s dream sequence early on in the season. Most of the bits are amusing in their own right but were rightly cut.
“Interview with Richard Mylan” features the new addition to the cast as he talks about the daunting task of replacing Richard Coyle and how he got on with the rest of the cast. He seems like a nice enough chap and recounts some of his favourite moments from the season.
Finally, there are some very detailed biographies for the cast and crew.