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April 17, 2005

Thank You NetFlix

So I spent a good chunk of my Saturday blowing through Season 1 of Coupling (the BBC version). That's a really, really, really funny show -- props to those who kept recommending it. But guffawing aside, three questions:

• Did anyone else find the fifth episode, the one where Jeff hits on the absurdly attractive Israeli who can't speak a word of English, completely impossible to get into? It's a general problem for me. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief fairly often, but I somehow can't clear the mental hurdle erected when situational comedies beg me to believe that stunningly attractive girl X is madly attracted to schlumpy, borderline-retarded character Y. I try, but just can't.

For that reason, I think it'd be impossible to watch King of Queens. I've seen it on airplanes and, aside from the not-funny issue, the premise of a fat, irritating, socially-awkward UPS delivery-man marrying, yes, a super hot and put-together woman just doesn't fit. And being unable to buy the foundation of the show makes every episode, which all seem to be about him screwing up, completely unbelievable. If I were him I'd be on best behavior all the time.

• Apparently Jeff leaves the show. Why?

• And what happens with the proposal? Inquiring minds want to know!

April 17, 2005 in Television | Permalink

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Comments

I've found the King of Queens factor to be rather annoying as well. It seems like almost all the standard, copycat sitcoms on tv follow that formula. It's probably done to attract male viewers (wishful thinking, anyone?), and is a sign of giving up on anything resembling believability. The stale "plots" are the same ones that have been used since the 50's (those crazy spendthrift women! that dumb oaf of a man!). It makes you wonder why they bother making new shows at all- old reruns would do just as well. Unless you can develop something at least a bit new, like Arrested Development, don't even bother. It's all been done before, and it's all been done better.

Posted by: Matt F | Apr 17, 2005 3:57:13 AM

I also didn't like "The Girl With Two Breasts", but for a different reason; it requires us to believe that Jeff believes that he is communicating with her, and I just couldn't buy that. Jeff's weird, but not stupid. I'm in a minority of Coupling fans in that I don't much like Jeff in the first place.

Now, "The Cupboard of Patrick's Love", ep.6 of that first season -- that's one of my favorite sitcom episodes of all time. Friends ripped it off the year before their producers decided to adapt Coupling for the U.S.
("Boys, look at the face!")

Posted by: DonBoy | Apr 17, 2005 10:26:38 AM

Frankly, the very idea of a fat, irritating, socially-awkward man hooking up with someone super hot and put-together is about the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

But I sure wouldn't want to watch a sitcom about it.

Posted by: Uncle Mike | Apr 17, 2005 12:56:05 PM

but I somehow can't clear the mental hurdle erected when situational comedies beg me to believe that stunningly attractive girl X is madly attracted to schlumpy, borderline-retarded character Y. I try, but just can't.

are you saying you find it difficult to watch the simpsons or family guy?

Posted by: almostinfamous | Apr 17, 2005 1:50:43 PM

also what uncle mike said. i dont watch much by way of sitcoms anyway. the laughtrack ruins my mood. nuff said

Posted by: almostinfamous | Apr 17, 2005 1:53:11 PM

I haven't seen Coupling, but regarding this:

the absurdly attractive Israeli who can't speak a word of English

Trust me, the main problem with the suspension of disbelief there is that she doesn't speak English! Anyone who's grown up in Israel at least understands it quite well, as all the foreign TV shows and movies are subtitled, not dubbed. And most Israelis under 40, certainly anyone who somehow ends up in Britain for whatever reason, will also speak English reasonably well.

Posted by: Haggai | Apr 17, 2005 2:31:00 PM

All sitcoms with a fat, irritating, socially-awkward man married to an attractive woman derive from (or outright steal from) the Honeymooners.

Routine plots turn on the fat man's inability to cope with basic life situations. He is rescued by his smarter, wiser and attractive wife. Typically, the fat man is has a scheme to improve his status, economically or socially. They invariably fail and often produce serious, adverse results. He is rescued by his smarter, wiser and attractive wife.

The sitcom fat man is not only irritating and socially awkward. He is anti-intellectual, insensitive to the feelings of others and often dishonest with his wife and himself. He is a loser. His only redemption is his smarter, wiser and attractive wife.

Have you considered the connection between the world portrayed in these shows and sex of the spouse who typically makes almost all the consumer purchases in American households? Here's an exercise, while watching a few hours of sitcom (painful as that may be), write short plot summaries of the commericials and the world they portray. It is an interesting exercise, more interesting than the shows.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Apr 17, 2005 4:29:05 PM

I think the actor who plays Jeff (Richard Coyle) left amid fears of typecasting, fears which were bolstered by the failure of another BBC series he did, "Strange" (about a defrocked Anglican priest who investigates the paranormal and whatnot), to be picked up for additional series. I caught an episode or two on one of the off-breand Showtimes last year, and spent the whole time waiting for him to say "hippo" or "jam sandwich," to the detriment of my actually watching the show, so I can't really blame him for wanting to move on. On the other hand, it's unlikely that there will be any more series of "Coupling" and it would have been nice to have him around for the last bunch of episodes.

Posted by: Chris Galdieri | Apr 17, 2005 4:31:17 PM

Sorry, but The Girl With Two Breasts is one of the funniest episodes of any television show I've ever seen. I caught that episode on BBC America a couple of years ago and own every episode available now because I was so completely hooked by that show. What NBC did to the show in general when they tried to bring it over here was just criminal.

Posted by: Incertus | Apr 17, 2005 4:40:35 PM

Ahh, the dumb husband comedies. As a genre, they have no redeeming features. Yes, quality shows such as "The simpsons" also feature the the dumb husband/smart sexy wife trophe (I've been itching to use that word for a while), but the whole show is not centered around that premise.

What I am really depressed by is the apparent inability of Americans to accept or even conceptualize a show where the woman is the fat and slobbish one while the smart, handsome man loves her regardless.

Posted by: battlepanda | Apr 17, 2005 10:57:15 PM

Simpsons/Family Guys are cartoons. My bar for disbelief in animation is set higher than live action.

Posted by: Ezra | Apr 17, 2005 11:38:08 PM

I somehow can't clear the mental hurdle erected when situational comedies beg me to believe that stunningly attractive girl X is madly attracted to schlumpy, borderline-retarded character Y. I try, but just can't.

I don't know, I see this pairing in bars around New York ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME.

And if you want to find out what happens with the proposal, watch the rest of the show. Only don't bother with the fourth season. That's the one that doesn't have Jeff.

Posted by: antid_oto | Apr 18, 2005 12:16:48 AM

What I am really depressed by is the apparent inability of Americans to accept or even conceptualize a show where the woman is the fat and slobbish one while the smart, handsome man loves her regardless.

You'd think they'd have noticed the popularity of Bridget Jones's Diary, the copycats thereof, and the rest of the chick lit filling the shelves. Our Heroine is rarely perfect, put-together, organized, etc. (Though she is generally attractive even if she can't see it, and she is generally fairly smart.)

Give it a few years. If the publishers and movies have gotten it, the TV folks can't be all that far behind.

Posted by: Jade | Apr 18, 2005 12:34:48 AM

Jeff sticks around for series 2 and 3, but was replaced with a different character in series 4. The 4th series is, on the whole, weaker than the first 3, but it's still worth watching, if only to get the resolution to the characters stories.

This is one of the things I love about Coupling - things change over time, and the characters develop. Too many sitcoms are utterly unchanging from week to week - The Simpsons and South Park at least acknowledge that, and I forgive them for it - but there's hordes of other sitcoms where _nothing_ _ever_ _changes_. Bleah. Boring.

And I still love the first episode of series 3 - "Split". My appreciation for the craft of the show was boosted even higher when the DVD commentary revealed that not only was a lot of it done live, but shot in parallel on the same stage (you'll understand more once you've seen it).

Finally, there should be a special place in hell for American TV executives who attempt to remake TV series and then screw it up - Coupling, the unbelievably appalling US Red Dwarf, and (to a lesser extent) now The Office.

Posted by: anthony baxter | Apr 18, 2005 11:09:27 AM

I should probably clarify that last post - while series 4 is the weakest of them, it's still damn damn fine stuff, and absolutely worth watching.

Posted by: anthony baxter | Apr 18, 2005 11:20:38 AM

Count me among those who loved TGW2B. It's a great episode of that kind of comedy that Coupling has done so well, which is the different subjective takes on the same things. (cf a great memory episode of steve and susan's first meeting at an office party).

And personally, while Jeff isn't quintessentially handsome, I wouldn't call him 'schlumpy" either, he's quirky cute and the great conceit of TGW2B is that someone who didn't realize he was saying 'knickers' and rambling on about collecting girl's ears, would certainly find him appealing (though yeah, the idea that he really believes he's made a date is farfetched).

Each season has slightly diminishing returns but that said, nothing on USTV (aside from Arr. Devel) comes even close to this level of smart n funny.

Posted by: lovedog7@comcast.net | Apr 18, 2005 4:37:15 PM

Count me among those who loved TGW2B. It's a great episode of that kind of comedy that Coupling has done so well, which is the different subjective takes on the same things. (cf a great memory episode of steve and susan's first meeting at an office party).

And personally, while Jeff isn't quintessentially handsome, I wouldn't call him 'schlumpy" either, he's quirky cute and the great conceit of TGW2B is that someone who didn't realize he was saying 'knickers' and rambling on about collecting girl's ears, would certainly find him appealing (though yeah, the idea that he really believes he's made a date is farfetched).

Each season has slightly diminishing returns but that said, nothing on USTV (aside from Arr. Devel) comes even close to this level of smart n funny.

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