Although Americans know Coupling primarily in the form of NBC's failed U.S. remake, the original British series has been a hit since it first aired on BBC2 in May 2000. Written by Steven Moffat and produced by his wife, Sue Vertue, the raunchy comedy follows the sexual and romantic exploits of six young professionals in London as they hang out in a pub, hunt for conquests, and reluctantly settle down with one another. Despite the three-guys, three-girls setup, any similarities to the hit U.S. sitcom Friends are superficial. Coupling is far more concerned with frank sex talk and romantic Darwinism than sentimentality and soap opera plotlines. Early episodes focused almost entirely on conceptual "knob gags" -- long setups and payoffs of an unfailingly vulgar nature. From sex toys to lesbian chic to one character's closet full of homemade porn, Moffat's scripts take R-rated dialogue as a given. As the series has progressed, however, its characters have essayed more mature relationships while remaining fixated on the intricacies of sex.
The relationship between flustered everyman Steve (Jack Davenport) and his icy blond girlfriend, Susan (Sarah Alexander), provides the show's nominal through-line, even as the more extreme characters earn more of the laughs. Patrick (Ben Miles), a Tory womanizer, represents one male extreme. The other comes in the form of Jeff (Richard Coyle), a juvenile sex addict afflicted by both performance anxiety and verbal diarrhea. As for the ladies, Jane (Gina Bellman) is the over-confident, deliberately kooky man-trap, while Sally (Kate Isitt) is the self-help addict obsessed with halting the aging process. Although each character starts out as little more than a collection of tics, time has deepened the emotional resonance of the entire cast.
After three seasons on BBC2, Coupling underwent some changes in its fourth season. Richard Coyle abruptly quit, leaving Moffat to replace Jeff with Oliver (Richard Mylan), a similarly bumbling man-boy. The show also moved over to BBC3. In America, the series first aired on PBS before migrating to the BBC America cable network. Despite their various levels of television experience, most cast members were relative unknowns when the series began. Only Jack Davenport, with the BBC hit This Life and the film The Talented Mr. Ripley under his belt, had much of a profile; he has since appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi