More sex, more hilarity, more provocation… and more SEX! Coupling returns with a second season of brilliant, outrageous farce! Find out who splits, who hooks up and who is left dangling. Learn the latest sexual theories creeping around in Jeff’s twisted imagination. Laugh until your sides split with this uproarious, sexy comedy from the UK!
Coupling: Series 2 7.75
eyelights: its sharper writing. the expansion of Jeff’s character.
eyesores: its many contrivances and forced humour.
“Steve, I’ve gone to a dinner party and I’m accidentally naked!”
Though the first series of ‘Coupling’ debuted to weak ratings, it was popular enough to be nominated for “Best TV Comedy” at the 2001 British Comedy Awards. And so it was that a second series, now with 50% more Steve, Susan, Patrick, Sally, Jeff and Jane, was produced for the 2001 season.
It would be more of the same: six heterosexual friends navigating romantic and sexual relationships while trying to keep the lid on their ineptitudes and insecurities. This time, however, Jeff was given a lot more screentime, becoming a feature character in his own right, not just Steve’s friend.
Episode 1: Jeff is enamoured with a woman that he keeps seeing on the train, though he’s only seen her leg; Steve mocks him, though Patrick sort of gets it. Jeff finally sits with the girl of his dreams face to face and totally blows it as only Jeff can: he winds up telling her that he has a prosthetic leg – but she actually likes that about him, and they start dating. Naturally, he can’t have sex with her no matter how much her desires her because it would reveal his lie. And it gets worse: she introduces him to her brother, who also has a prosthetic limb. Yikes. Meanwhile, Sally has started dating for first time in a long while. The others obviously quiz her about her new beau, whom she claims is a surgeon – but the truth about him eventually comes out. It’s a decent episode, but Jeff’s rambles are cringe-inducingly bad. 7.5
Episode 2: Steve and Susan are watching a BBC documentary on sex, and the hosts mention that men still masturbate while in relationships. There’s awkwardness between the two around that notion: she wants to ask if he does, but doesn’t, and he doesn’t want to admit it. Of course, they both discuss it with their friends. Then Susan tells Steve that she’s invited her parents for dinner; he’s uncomfortable because they always talk about sex openly. But Steve gets too comfy with them and shocks them with his talk about masturbation, having misunderstood what they were talking about. Eek. Meanwhile, Patrick discovers that an ex has used his penis as a model for a line of popular dildos/vibrators. Naturally, this causes some problems when he decides to buy one. It’s a contrived and absurd episode, but it was nonetheless funny. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that everyone’s got hang-ups about the idea that Steve masturbates, though. 7.25
Episode 3: Steve goes to Susan’s for his keys, having picked hers up by mistake. He finds Sally coming out of the shower – she had asked Sally if she could come over because her shower was broken. As luck would have it, Steve sees her naked, causing much discomfort between them. Jeff tells him that he can’t tell Susan at all costs. But Sally tells Susan. Oops. Meanwhile Steve and Susan are buying furniture together and he can’t decide on the fabric. They all meet at the furniture store and a subtext translator, akin to The Terminator‘s viewscreen, shows us what they really mean instead of what they’re actually saying. Then the truth about Steve and Sally’s encounter comes out. Oops. There are some great moments here, including the subtext translator, but I was irked by the assertion that men don’t have opinions on matters such as fabric. Really? All men? 7.25
Episode 4: In a follow-up to episode 3, Sally is using Patrick to intimidate dates that she wants to brush off – you know, because he’s so well hung. One day, she calls him up for sex. His flat is being decorated and her roommate is at home sick, so they go to Susan’s – but, for the first time in his life, he can’t perform. He discusses it with the boys, and Jeff and Steve tell him about the so-called “Melty Man”. Later, she goes to his place for a second go-round. They’re both anxious and argue; it turns into a personal Hell for both, struggling with their emotions. Well, they find out that the issue is that they actually like each other. There are good bits to this one, but Jeff’s ramble about the Melty Man was dumb. 7.5
Episode 5: Jane gets fired from her job as a traffic announcer and she decides to become a kids’ TV show presenter. She shows Steve, Susan and Sally her shtick, using a penis-like sock puppet. Obviously she can’t throw her voice, so she does both characters live and gets caught up in the frank and abusive sock puppet’s character – very out there stuff. Meanwhile, Patrick tosses his girlfriend after just two weeks because she won’t consider having a threesome. So he leaves her a voicemail about it, but then she shows up saying she’s reconsidered – so he’s stuck scrambling to undo what he’s done. Then she invites Jeff, who is unaware of the arrangement. That goes well. Not. It’s all very ridiculous, and Patrick’s scramble was unbelievable, but it was actually quite funny. 7.75
Episode 6: Steve gets a wedding invitation and is worried that Susan will react, since he has yet to propose to her. Meanwhile, Jane and Sally also get invited and freak out because the bride is younger than they are – when will their turn be, they wonder? Susan joins them before going to her 1-year anniversary dinner with Steve. Their nervous energy gets to her, so the whole dinner ends up being a series of insecure conversations – from her this time. Meanwhile, Patrick sees the mom of a girl he once slept with, and wants to avoid. But she mistakes him for someone else, reeling him in for an extended and awkward visit. Some of it was obvious and Susan’s meltdown was annoying, but it’s still very funny stuff. 7.75
Episode 7: At the bar, Jane recounts to Susan and Sally her encounters with Bill, a guy she finds attractive. Though they have nothing in common, his best friend Harry has the same interests as her – but, since he’s a bit dumpy-looking, she’s rude to him and dismisses all he says. She is very persistent with Bill, but the way she tells the story it sounds very different from the actual events. The three women discuss women’s strategies for catching a man. Jane eventually goes to dinner at his place, and decides not to wear anything under her coat – not realizing that he wasn’t planning a tête-à-tête, but a dinner party. Oops. Meanwhile, Patrick has asked Sally to be his “pretend wife” to impress a peer he’s very competitive with. The problem is that, at the last minute, he switches her up with Susan – offending not just Sally, but Steve in the process. Everything gets deliciously out of hand. 8.0
Episode 8: Jeff has the hots for Julia, a new employee at work. Well, it so turns out that Julia also has the hots for him. Since she’s friends with Susan, she discusses it with her and the girls: The pair met up in a the storage closet and wanted to kiss, but they each had their own nightmarish visions of how this could go wrong – very funny scenarios for each of them. And so they didn’t, and instead had an awkward encounter. She admits to being a powerhouse in the workplace, but -just like Jeff- of being a jabbering idiot when it comes to romance. The pair finally have a conversation in the office elevator; it’s awkward, but amusing and strangely endearing. This eventually leads to a secret 30th birthday bash that they decide to throw for Jeff at work. He thinks it’s a date with Julia, so it gets very embarrassing. The awkwardness of socially-inept people is well illustrated (though a bit exaggerated), and I really love the character of Julia – she’s awesome. I hope to see more of her. 8.25
Episode 9: Susan gets hit on by an Australian who thinks she’s French, because he overheard her speaking to a French client on her phone. She has the hots for Australians, and spent some pretty wild days down under years ago, so she plays the part. Meanwhile, Jeff gets flustered and gives his phone number to a woman in a bar, telling her he doesn’t have a girlfriend, even though he’s seeing Julia. When Susan calls, he thinks it’s this woman so he takes on an Australian accent to mask his voice. Susan, thinking she’s called her Aussie dude, takes on a French accent and it all devolves from there as both of their lies overlap and crash. It’s contrived as all get out but it’s actually hilarious and well-conceived. Meanwhile, the boys have a chat with Jeff about the difference between short-term and long-term relationships, in light of his utter infatuation with Julia – who remains absolutely awesome; the pair’s dynamic is super cool. 8.25
Though its greater slate of episodes was pretty ambitious on the part of showrunner Steven Moffat, the second series actually manages to outdo its predecessor: the writing is sharper, and there’s a bit more variety, which each character being given slightly bit more for them to do than in the past.
I quite like the addition of Julia towards the end, because she balances Jeff out with her maturity. That she’s also socially-inept justifies her interest in him and her sexiness is natural and convincing. With the promise of more Julia in future episodes, it makes Series 3 that much more compelling to me.
Interestingly, unlike Series 1, Series 2 would not be nominated for any awards, despite being a stronger set. But Series 3 would make up for it.
Dates of viewings: August 2016