Television Revision: Coupling – Season 3

Coupling-Series-3

By Andrew Williams
October 30, 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… Long-term partners Steve (Jack Davenport) and Susan (Sarah Alexander) have reached a bumpy point in their relationship, Sally (Kate Isitt) and Patrick (Ben Miles) are still dancing around their attraction to each other, and Jeff (Richard Coyle) and Jane (Gina Bellman) are still mad.

Happy days? For a show about matters of the heart, Coupling’s first two seasons displayed surprisingly little of it. There was romance, sure, but it mostly existed so writer Steven Moffat could get to his next (almost always funny) theory about the way men and women interact. The series sometimes felt hollow as a result; we’d laugh, we’d admire the craft on display and the charming performers, yet we wouldn’t feel. For Coupling to really become a pantheon show about romance, it needed to have one we really cared about.

Season Three doesn’t quite ascend to those lofty heights, but it comes damn close. Moffat’s secret weapon is the show’s ‘second’ romance, the mutual attraction between Sally and Patrick morphing into friendship and back again. Against all odds, their interactions give Coupling something it never really had before: the burning desire of the viewer to find out what happens next.

What’s happening elsewhere could feel ploddingly familiar if Moffat wasn’t such a good writer and the performances so uniformly strong. Jane is still a mad ditz, Jeff is still a mad ditz, and Steve and Susan are still singing their dithering/headstrong duet. This is Coyle’s final season, as Jeff is replaced in Season Four by a ‘Cousin Oliver’ character called… Oliver.

The final frontier: With every element of the show working in complete harmony, this is Coupling at its peak.

Top three episodes: 4) Remember This. It should come as no surprise that Moffat uses the ‘unreliable narrator’ device very, very well. 6/7) The Girl with One Heart/Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps. Moffat balances his various season-long plot strands expertly, bringing them all to a head in two eps with smarts, heart, and humour.

Worst episode: 1) Split. It’s rare that Coupling’s big chances don’t pay off,  which makes it all the stranger that an episode taking place entirely on split screen with two simultaneous storylines falls so flat. There needs to be a reason for the gimmick. This is just a gimmick.

Season MVP: Though she acts as mostly repressed comic relief for the first two seasons of the show, Kate Isitt is given the emotional and comedic ball in the third season and runs with it. She’s alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, and the show is all the better for her increased presence.

4.5/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments here:

Television Revision: Coupling – Season 1

Television Revision: Coupling – Season 2

Coupling is now available on Quickflix.

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