September 03, 2003
NBC's Coupling Courts Controversy
by Daniel R. Coleridge

If you watch NBC's "Must See TV," you've seen those Peacock promos likening Coupling to its Thursday night lead-in, Will & Grace. Having screened the pilot episode of this British import — debuting Sept. 25 at 9:25 pm/ET — we agree its got the racy part down, at least. Talk about raunch-o-rama! A couple negotiates sex in a bathroom stall, a woman titillates men with tales of girl-on-girl action... and you should hear the stuff they had to cut.

"Yeah, it does deal with some subjects that maybe are a little unusual," says exec producer Phoef Sutton. "I mean, we're after Will & Grace. To me, it follows the same sort of envelope-pushing, if you want to use that word, that Will & Grace does. I don't think it's outside the pale of that."

Britcoms adapted for American broadcast TV often can end up homogenized and lame. But Coupling co-creator Beryl Vertue — who helped dream up the Brit version — insists that won't happen here: "I would be irritated if it was really watered down hugely, just for the sake of it, as though America can't watch television because they're all at church or something."

Back to that spicy scene in the men's room. At a vital moment, the randy Steve (Jay Harrington) is obliged to pause the passion, stepping out of his stall to ask some guy if he's got a spare condom on him! "I think it's interesting," Vertue points out, "that Phoef had to rewrite that bit about the condom [from the original Coupling's script]. Because in the U.K., in every restroom of any hotel or restaurant, there's a condom machine. And as you don't appear to have all those, he had to re-write the joke."

Have any of the cast ever asked anonymous folks for prophylactics? "I've called it out," laughs Colin Ferguson, who plays Patrick.

"And if I never have," adds Rena Sofer, who plays Susan, "I sure know how to do it now. So I find it informative!"

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