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"Let me explain, Patrick. Here on Earth, there is a gap between seeing someone you like and having sex with them that we like to call conversation. In Jeff's case, it can last for up to ten years."

Coupling was a British Sitcom from 2000 to 2004 about a circle of friends and their complicated sex lives. Written by Steven Moffat, produced by his wife Sue Vertue, and based very loosely on their early relationship. (The Word of God is that Steve and Susan went on to make a sitcom about their lives, and Steve is now working on "some old kids show they recently pulled out of mothballs".)

The series was notable for its meticulously-crafted plots, revolving around lies and misunderstandings in the Fawlty Towers Plot and Three Is Company veins, and hilarious cases of Digging Yourself Deeper. Each episode was very detailed and expansive on matters such as impotence, masturbation, pornography and lesbianism. It's different to other 'traditional' British comedy and certainly isn't anything like Blackadder or Father Ted.

The characters are intended to represent a spectrum of confidence and paranoia in relationships among men and women. They are:

  • Steve: A nice, if somewhat neurotic everyman, who starts dating Susan after breaking up with Jane.
  • Susan: A snarky and practical blonde with the occasional mean streak, who starts dating Steve after breaking up with Patrick.
  • Jeff: Steve's best friend. A paranoid Man Child obsessed with women's bits who provides the show's most awkward moments.
  • Sally: Susan's beauty-obsessed best friend. Although originally written as a one-note character, she gets plenty of serious character development after the first series.
  • Patrick: A laid-back casanova who does have his heart in the right place on occasion. Although he's not too bright, he has his serious moments.
  • Jane: Steve's ex. A walking mess of crazy with many hidden layers of even more crazy, although hidden underneath all of that crazy, she seems to be a very sweet, very scared woman.
  • Oliver: The final series' replacement of Jeff. Owns a fantasy/sci-fi store and is worse with the opposite gender than the rest of the cast combined.

It had a US remake that lasted about four episodes before being chased off the face of the Earth. (The Greek version ran for a whole series.)

The central cast of three male and three female characters inevitably invited comparisons with Friends and led to a certain amount of disappointment among some viewers when it wasn't in fact much like Friends at all. This comparison, along with the short-lived American remake, were Lampshaded in series 4, when Steve states that their lives are not "an American sitcom".

Came fifty-fourth in Britains Best Sitcom.

Tropes used in Coupling include:

  "We never really got 'round to organizing a wedding. Thought maybe a whole human being would be easier."

  • Better Than Sex: Jeff once said this of a childhood activity that involved writing the word "naked" hundreds of times on a sheet of paper and rubbing his face in it.
  • Big Brother Mentor (Jeff tries to be this to Steve, even though they're the same age)
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Patrick, so much so that a former girlfriend used him as a model for a sex aid--without his knowledge.

 Steve: I think you may have been had, mate.

Jeff: And a lot more often than you realized!

    • In his personal opinion, he's also "got technique". His ex Jane disagrees, advising him that, when kissing, he should stop considering the epiglottis at the back of the throat a target and that he should stop trying to make nipples revolve like the knobs on an etch-a-sketch.
  • Birthday Suit Surprise Party: Oh, Geoffrey.
  • Bi the Way: Jane mentions early in the show that she's bisexual, and mentions it often, but Susan thinks she isn't bisexual at all. At one point she claims that being bi means she can go out with gay men, and simply won't believe the gay man in question when he tries to put her straight. However, when Susan later snogs her in order to turn on Steve, Jane is very obviously affected by it.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Susan, Jane, Sally.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Averted. Jeff and his girlfriend are shown to take part in bondage as part of their relationship and it shown as part of a loving consensual relationship... or would be if Jeff weren't so bad at it.
  • Britcom
  • British Brevity: Four series, and a total of 28 episodes, just barely more than a single American season of 22.
  • Butt Monkey (Steve and Jeff take turns in this role — Oliver too, when Jeff leaves)
  • Cannot Talk to Women: This is one of Jeff's defining characteristics.
  • The Casanova: Patrick
  • Category Traitor: Sally accuses a gay man of being a traitor because he supports the Conservatives.
  • Cerebus Syndrome (started rearing its head in series 3 with the increasing Patrick/Sally tension, but became more noticeable after Jeff left)
    • Jeff himself was going through this just before he left, especially in his last conversation with Jane - it's filled with plenty of jokes but it slowly becomes clear just how lonely and deeply unhappy they both are, especially when they get onto talking about their love interests who are supposedly 'exploring their feelings' which as Jeff sadly points out means they are actually being dumped.
  • Character Filibuster: Steve, about Once A Series - topics include pornography, the pointlessness of cushions, and the sanctity of the toilet.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends (the finale of series 3 had Patrick and Sally finally getting together, and series 4 gave Jane a love interest in the form of Jeff's Suspiciously Similar Substitute)
  • Cliff Hanger: Every series ends this way.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jane and Patrick both have their moments.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Sally's reaction to discovering Patrick's engagement ring.
  • Country Matters: When Susan is in labor in the series finale, she wants to have a natural birth, but tells Steve to ask her three times if she wants the drugs. Midway through, though, she changes her mind about this:

 Nurse: She said "you can't."

Steve: Yeah, trust me, the word wasn't "can't."

  • Did Not Do the Research - On one of the DVD commentaries, Steven Moffat mentions how the above mentioned 'Jeff in the Gimp Mask' scene was the subject of complaints from fetishist groups - who stated that in S&M, the person wearing the gimp mask is always the one chained to the bed, not the one doing the chaining.
    • Though in the scene in question, Jeff was impersonating Darth Vader, who is a villain with a dominant personality.
      • Also entirely possible that the characters didn't do the research, given that they don't appear to be what you would call experts in it.
    • Steven Moffat also criticised himself for having a character mention that he found religion whereas a religious person would say that he found God.
  • Depth Deception: Jeff being dragged up to the miniature guillotine.
  • Drama Bomb Finale (in a rare Happy Ending version of the trope)
  • Digging Yourself Deeper - Jeff, in spades - the trope was formerly named for Jeff's epic "Bucket of Ears" speech in "The Girl With Two Breasts". Steve has his moments, too.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The reason for Steve's five failed attempts to break up with Jane.
  • Earpiece Conversation: Jeff gets talked through a possibly-a-date with a co-worker.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: In one episode, it's mentioned that Susan has a bad weakness for an Aussie accent. According to Sally, when they were visiting Australia, they always knew it was time to leave town when a new bar was named after her.
  • Executive Meddling: The original pilot for the U.S. version was based off the episode "Inferno" and was more faithful to the original show, which confused NBC execs, so they gave showrunners Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont and original series director Martin Dennis the heave-ho, along with Kaplan's husband, Breckin Meyer (Melissa George had also been fired and replaced by Rena Sofer a month earlier) and Emily Rutherford, Cheers executive producer Phoef Sutton was subsequently brought in to redevelop the show.
  • Fawlty Towers Plot
  • Fidelity Test
  • Freudian Excuse (Jeff's mental stability is largely a result of the way his mother raised him)
  • Freudian Slip Lampshaded with Captain Subtext.
  • Freudian Slippery Slope:

 Jane: I do not say "penis" when I mean penis! I mean, penis! Penis, car, penis, car...

  • Freud Was Right: The whole show - note the fact that we've just listed every single trope with "Freud" in it.
    • Jane's "Jake the Snake" puppet:

 Sally: Oh my god, it's a penis!

  • Fridge Logic: Which leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny. During the episode "Inferno," after Jane's very vague grasp of what vegetarianism is, we get this exchange between her and her therapist at dinner:

 Jill: A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, you insane bitch.

Jane: I get enough of that language during our sessions.

    • Realize that Jane is so screwed up, she has sent a licensed health professional so over the edge, she's insulted her repeatedly. It was our first major glimpse into how messed up Jane really is.

 Jill: We agreed two months ago to end your therapy, it was going nowhere.

Jane: I thought that was just an exercise to help me cope with rejection!

Jill: No, that was rejection.


 Jeff: If you're gay, see... if you're gay, masturbation is practice. Y'know, you can have a good old practice on your own, and then later, when you're ready, when you've got the hang of it, you have a go on someone else's. It's a piece of piss.... See, it's different... it's different when you're a straight bloke. When we finally get our hands on the gear, let me tell you, it's not a drill. Gays have their own practice kit, but you don't get any practice women. We're supposed to fly those babies the first time we get in 'em!

Howard: That's a very good point, actually.

Sally: No it's not, it's homophobic, you stupid queen!


 Patrick: Sally, you need someone who'll love you forever, properly. You're my friend, Sally, and I wanna see you with the best. You need Mister Amazing, Mister Incredibly-Superbly-Fantastic... ness. And in your heart, I'm sure you know I'm right.

Sally: I don't want Mister Incredibly-Superbly-Fantastic-ness, you stupid, stupid arse. I want you.

Patrick: Oh, for God's sake, Sally...

Sally: What?

Patrick: ...I was talking about me!

  • Kavorka Man (Patrick, though it's a fine line between this and The Casanova)
  • Left Hanging (the finale of season 2)
  • Life Embellished (Moffat calls the series "my life as told by a drunk")
    • In a specific example, he says that he wrote "Inferno" based on a similar situation where he was caught with porn in his VCR; however, he admits to adding the "spanking" part because it made the whole things just a little more twisted.
  • Living in a Furniture Store (Averted so many times by Rule of Funny)
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight (the Melty Man)
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Plot and humour both tend to rely heavily on this, particularly Steve's Character Filibusters.
  • Men Can't Keep House
  • Missing Episode: Only four out of ten episodes of the U.S. version aired on NBC before the show was cancelled, though the remaining episodes did air in Europe, the original pilot for the U.S. version(which featured Melissa George as Susan) however has never aired.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Sally, by Patrick's girlfriend, probably because Patrick told her "that Sally is the sort of woman a lesbian." She doesn't mind, however, and it leads to a wacky misunderstanding, of course. See One Dialogue, Two Conversations.
    • Happens in an earlier episode when the gang mistakes Jane's therapist for her lesbian lover and the therapist mistakes Patrick for gay.
  • Mushroom Samba: Jane on the "paracetemol" in Jane & The Truth Snake
  • Must Make Amends: Steve does this a lot. He's actually pretty good at it.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Jeff. To a lesser extent, Oliver.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Sally with Patrick's Girl of the Week Jennifer - Sally thinks Jennifer was fooling around with Jeff, but that she's worked out Sally is in love with Patrick. Jennifer thinks Sally is a lesbian and is coming on to her.
    • The award-winning episode "The Girl With Two Breasts" is a variation, showing Jeff's cross-linguistic conversation with an Israeli woman from each of their perspectives.
    • Moffat loves this trope. There's dozens of little titbits in this and other scribblings that rely on One Dialogue, Two Conversations; here it's used to cement the Fawlty Towers Plot.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Neatly averted, as most episodes either take place at night or show the characters at or leaving work.
  • Open Mouth Insert Foot: Jeff when he talks to any woman always inserts two feet and then some.
  • Over and Under the Top: Steve and Susan are an Every Man couple, and their relationship is the focus of the series. Jeff and Sally are far too neurotic about relationships while Jane and Patrick are overly casual.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery (Jane does this in Jeff's flat.)

 Jane: He works in pizza delivery, which just answers all your prayers, doesn't it? Man, motorbike, has own food.


 Susan: [following Steve's rant] ...would you like me to put the lock back on the bathroom door, dear?

Steve: Would you mind?


 From Patrick's recollection of the story:

Sally: How did you get to the party, then?

Patrick: BMW M3. Midnight blue. Nought to 60 in five seconds, on to 100 in another six. Sequential semiautomatic gear box, traction control, and black leather seats.



 From Sally's recollection of the story:

Sally: How did you get to the party, then?

Patrick: Car.

    • The episodes "The End of the Line", "Remember This" and "Nine and a Half Minutes" entirely revolve around this trope.
  • Real Person Cameo: Mariella Frostrup and Angus Deayton appear in a weird, possibly imaginary sequence in the second episode; Mariella appears in a later episode for real.
  • Real Song Theme Tune ("Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps")
  • Sadist Show (And how!)
  • Scenery Censor
  • Shirtless Scene (every male lead gets at least one, though Steve's are rather conservative
  • Shout-Out

 Steve: But Susan, Sally, Jane, this... is a sofa. It is designed by clever scientists in such a way so is to shield the unprotected user from the way of skin abrasions, serious head trauma, and of course - [he collapses behind the sofa and reemerges] - Daleks!

    • Oliver also has Doctor Who merchandise in his bookshop, and when going to a dinner with the gang, wears a sweater reading "Bring Back Doctor Who" on the back.
    • The whole show is laden with these, all highlighting Moffat's geeky nature: Steve describing the deep meaning of Alien to men everywhere, the Melty Man being shown as a Darth Vader parody, all the references to comic book superheroes.
  • Sitcom
  • Six-Student Clique:
    • The main character: Steve
    • The Muscle: Patrick
    • The Quirk: Jeff/Oliver
    • The Pretty One: Sally
    • The Smart One: Susan
    • The Wild One: Jane
  • Split Screen
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Sally gets mad when Howard, a gay friend (whom Jane believes to be her boyfriend) agrees with Jeff's bizarre views on homosexuality, and exclaims "That's homophobic, you stupid queen!"
    • In fairness, the above alluded view on homosexuality was Jeff suggesting that: (paraphrased) "Sex is easier for gay men, because all of the masturbating men do in their lives turns out to be practice. All the while they have a 'practice kit' for the real thing, but straight men don't get any practice women". While this certainly IS a somewhat bizarre view, its perhaps not as offensive as it seems without details. It's also worth noting that this was supposed to be a drunken conversation, after a dozen pints very late in the evening and both of the guys are visibly drunk acting. Howard may well have been winding Sally up anyway, because she got really snarky about him being a Tory earlier in the scene.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute (Oliver replaced Jeff)
  • Swallow the Key: Done accidentally in one episode, when Jeff Murdock holds the key to his girlfriend's handcuffs in his mouth and then does his best Darth Vader impression. He spends the episode trying to find a way to get it out before she realizes what's gone wrong.

 Jeff: (on laxatives) If I take all of them at once, do you think there's a danger of liftoff?

  • The Cast Showoff: In the U.S. version, Chris Moynihan showcases his juggling and balancing talents in one episode.
  • The Tell: "You only say apparently when you're annoyed at something."
  • The Windy City: The setting of the U.S. version
  • Three Is Company
  • Three-Way Sex
  • Throw the Dog a Bone (see Crowning Moment of Funny)
  • Twice Shy (Jeff and Julia)
  • Unexpected Positive: Sally buys three pregnancy tests because she doesn't know what a negative test looks like and asks Susan and Jane to take one each.
  • Unexplained Accent: Richard Coyle (Jeff) absolutely does not have a Welsh accent, and he was never asked to do one for the show. According to Steve Moffat in one of the commentaries, he simply showed up on set doing the accent, and since he wasn't a well known actor no-one noticed for ages until they got to know him better, by which point the first episode had been filmed and there was nothing they could do.
    • The accent is pretty authentic and so isn't really a 'comedy accent', but there is not denying it gives a certain something to Jeff's bizarre sexual metaphors.
      • We meet his mother at one point, who does not share his accent. Since Jeff talks about his teenage years with her implying she was around his whole life, it seems that the show in no way wants to deal with Jeffs accent, leaving it as a genuine imponderable.
      • The most likely theory is Rule of Funny. Quite a few of the most common words in Jeff's arsenal (breasts, genitals) sound a little funnier in a Welsh accent. Listen to the small trill in his "R's" when he says the word "breasts."
  • Unusual Euphemism (Jeff has one for everything sex-related. In the first episode he introduces "The Zone" and "Unflushable" in the opening five minutes)
    • There's also the Sock Gap, the Nudity Buffer and the (non-sex-related) Giggle Loop.
    • The others got in on it, too. Remember the girls with "The Fuck-me Fork?"
  • Word of God: Responding to a message board request, Coupling creator (and sole writer) Steven Moffat wrote a breakdown of the characters' lives several years after the fourth and final series. This gave Moffat the chance to write an "ending" for the character of Jeff, despite actor Richard Coyle leaving the previous year.
    • Unfortunately, because the primary source (an old Doctor Who forum called Outpost Gallifrey) has closed, The Other Wiki wouldn't keep it on the show's page anymore because of lack of citation, so if it pleases the crowds, here is the text to be preserved for everyone to read:

  "Sally said yes to Patrick, they got married and are very happy... especially as Sally beat Susan to the altar, and finally did something first. Patrick is now a completely devoted husband, who lives in total denial that he was anything other an upstanding member of the community. Or possibly he's actually forgotten. He doesn't like remembering things because it's a bit like thinking.



 Jane and Oliver never actually did have sex, but they did become very good friends. They often rejoice together that their friendship is uncomplicated by any kind of sexual attraction - but they both get murderously jealous when the other is dating. Jane has a job at Oliver's science fiction book shop now - and since Oliver has that one moment of Naked Jane burnt on the inside of his eyelids, he now loses the place in one in every three sentences. People who know them well think something's gotta give - and they're right. Especially as Jane comes to work in a metal bikini.



 Steve and Susan have two children now, and have recently completed work on a sitcom about their early lives together. They're developing a new television project, but it keeps getting delayed as he insists on writing episodes of some old kids show they recently pulled out of mothballs. She gets very cross about this, and if he says "Yeah but check out the season poll!" one more time, he will not live to write another word.



 Jeff is still abroad. He lives a life of complete peace and serenity now, having taken the precaution of not learning a word of the local language and therefore protecting himself from the consequences of his own special brand of communication. If any English speakers turn up, he pretends he only speaks Hebrew. He is, at this very moment, staring out to sea, and sighing happily every thirty-eight seconds.



 What he doesn't know, of course, is that even now a beautiful Israeli girl he once met in a bar, is heading towards his apartment, having been directed to the only Hebrew speaker on the island. What he also doesn't know is that she is being driven by a young ex-pat English woman, who is still grieving the loss of a charming, one-legged Welshman she once met on a train. And he cannot possibly suspect that (owing to a laundry mix-up, and a stag party the previous night in the same block) he is wearing heat-dissolving trunks.



 As the doorbell rings, it is best that we draw a veil."