ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Brits just do Coupling better
Imagine watching Friends with different actors. It just wouldn't
feel right hearing anyone besides David Schwimmer yell about
being on a break.
This is the approximate reaction of any fan of the original
BBC Coupling series watching the American version on NBC. The
British show is a hilarious combo of Sex and the City and Friends,
combined with a Seinfeldian ability to introduce new slang
into the lexicon (i.e. the Tripod, the nickname given to a
guy with a "third leg," hint hint).
No doubt some NBC executive caught an episode while over in
London chowing down on bangers 'n mash and thought "Good
God, bangers 'n mash tastes like garbage!" And then they
thought "Hey, this show has six attractive people having
sex and being funny! I smell ratings!" This is one of
the legacies of All in the Family, a British adaptation that
became a classic in the United States. It proved such an adaptation
could be done and thus TV viewers have suffered through 30
years of cross-Atlantic crap. You might remember the short-lived
Fawlty Towers remake starring John Larroquette. Getting Larroquette
in place of John Cleese sure as hell ain't an upgrade.
The exceptions to this rule are naturally malleable programs
like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the improv show Whose
Line Is It Anyway?. With a scripted show, however, the unique
British combination of witty humour and slapstick farce, all
delivered with usually impeccable timing, is too tough to duplicate.
The American Coupling is further handicapped by the differences
between NBC and the BBC. British shows are 30 minutes uninterrupted
and thus nearly a third of the script has to be cut to make
room for commercials. The scripts are otherwise the same as
the BBC show, except with American references (George W. Bush
instead of Tony Blair) and some of the racier bits edited out.
The end result is a show so watered down one wonders why NBC
bothered to buy the rights in the first place.
In fairness to the American Coupling, it's still much better
than some of the other dreck NBC has debuted on Thursday nights
(Suddenly Susan). But if you want a real taste of the Coupling
phenomenon, rent the DVDs of the British program. It's bloody