Television Revision: Coupling – Season 2

Coupling S2

By Andrew Williams
September 25, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… Steve (Jack Davenport) and Susan (Sarah Alexander) continue to navigate the early stages of their relationship, advised (mostly poorly) all the while by their eclectic group of friends and exes.

Happy days? Coupling’s sophomore season sheds the training wheels of Season One and begins to build up speed and momentum. This is a nice stretch of truly inventive observational comedy about the neuroses of romance in the modern age, and while the technology might be firmly outdated, the emotional hang-ups remain very much the same. (Trust me on this.) Writer Steven Moffat has a firmer handle on his and the show’s strengths this time around, leaning more heavily on the elements that would come to define the show in comedy history: clever structures, shifting points of view, and twisting, intricate plots. Gone are the awkward, clunky ‘punch lines’ of Season One, and the show is infinitely better for it.

Moffat is assisted considerably by a more confident and comfortable cast; you can feel almost every actor gaining a firmer and firmer grasp on their characters with each passing episode. Kate Isitt (Sally) and Ben Miles (Patrick) are able to shade their previously one-note characters with additional levels of depth not present in the script, and Alexander and Davenport remain consistent comedy pros. Your mileage will vary on Gina Bellman as Jane; while Bellman is game for anything, the character is so oblivious of everyone around her (until, for no reason, she’s not) that it would be difficult for any actress to humanise her. She becomes more surplus to requirements as the series moves along.

The final frontier: Coupling Season Two is inventive, funny, romantic, neurotic, and not quite like anything else on television (still). It’s completely worth your time.

Coupling S2

Top three episodes: 8) Naked. Farce is one of Coupling’s best modes, and this episode is the show at the top of its game. Any time you get the idea that this terrific ensemble is just having a bunch of fun, it’s sitcom gold. 1) The Man with Two Legs. A classic ep features Jeff at his most… Jeffish. 7) Dressed. The flirtation between Patrick and Sally continues unabated, giving the show a perfect will-they-won’t-they couple to add to its they-have and they-never-will.

Worst episode: 5) Jane and the Truth Snake. The Gina Bellman comedy showcase aims for tour de force and misses by a wide mark. Not because of Bellman, who is terrific, but because the writing lacks Coupling’s usual intricate flair.

Season MVP: There’s a reason Richard Coyle’s Jeff was the breakout character of Coupling. It’s the perfect marriage of actor and subject, and Coyle is just note-perfect, infusing the character with charming nervous energy and an important dollop of self-awareness. He’s lightning-in-a-bottle brilliant (and part of the reason the US version of the show was never going to be nearly as good).

4/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments here:

Television Revision: Coupling – Season 1

Coupling is now available on Quickflix.

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