Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5
Sex and the City became a household name in America as it ran for more than half a decade on HBO. The show carved a special place in the hearts of viewers with the constantly unfolding personal lives of its protagonists. The female-centric tone and flair for dramatic tension ensured viewers were never short of glossy entertainment.
With Uncoupled, Star tries something similar. Only this time, the gender is swapped and the world of dating in a transformative world takes focus. Neil Patrick Harris is the lifeblood of season 1 as Michael Lawson, a recently single realtor in New York seeking answers for his abrupt separation. While Uncoupled does conjure some of the rustic charms of Star’s illustrious precedent, it also takes a bolder step of diversity representation on screen.
There aren’t many television shows right now that have dared to be so unabashedly open and sharply critical of same-sex dating. The norms are certainly different, with a few fundamental blocks remaining the same. But it cannot be denied that watching Michael go through partner after partner and discovering a changing world is not refreshing.
What the creators do so well is sculpt the ethos of homosexual courtship in a way that does not feel too different from traditional courtship. Heartbreaks and excitement in relationships feel just like in any other ordinary relationship. And for once, the “gays” are not a sass side character or a distant relative being made a bad example out of.
The representation goes beyond stereotypes and amateurish misconceptions, while still maintaining a certain je ne sais quoi of its own. At the same time, it is a mixed bag that shows like Uncoupled are becoming less rare, indicating a tipping point for television.
Uncoupled works very well within its niche category with Star’s successful formula. It was perhaps very late in the season – maybe around episode 6 – that the creators took the show in the direction of making it more universal. For most parts, it has a laser-sharp focus on Lawson’s miserable condition after his breakup.
The hangover seemed to have affected the entire universe, which reeled under its effects. Other supporting characters – who are incidentally very well written – don’t have the same amount of on-screen time. And that had the negative bearings of making the early parts a bit one-dimensional and pedestrian.
Uncoupled only really becomes about its people post that point and that is when the show relishes. One of the most striking things about its protagonists is the fact that all of them are single. Michael, Suzanne, Stanley, Billy, Claire, and even Colin, all lead their own lives and depend on each other for some comfort. I am not sure I have seen such a strong-minded independent group of people being paired together. It might just be a coincidence as well but the probability of that is unlikely at best.
Another great thing about the show is how creators manage to make situations more conversational and something palatable for the masses. The sharp commentary revolves mostly around the dating culture but also extends to include serious-minded things like fear of commitment, losing human touch, and how morbidly the world is increasingly disconnected.
Within the realm of this aspect, the show also captures the extremes of New York City craftily. The good times are “really” good – the nightlife, the bustling city, and its jostling residents; while the bad times are spent alone in high-rise apartments and mildly-toned bars. That is where friends become great levellers and provide that sort of grey area.
The performances are really solid and kudos to the casting team for tailor-casting each actor to perfection. There is no other person you could imagine plating these characters when you see them off-screen. Harris, of course, is the star, but my favourites were Marcia Gay-Harden and Andre De Shields. The former had the best interpretation of her character. She really put years of experience creating memorable portraits of real people with a theatrical flair and Claire is just that. She fits the scene perfectly and if we do have a second season, I hope we get to see more of her.
One thing that helps Star streamline the story and the narrative arch is the number of episodes. Unlike Sex and the City where he had to deal with twenty-ish episodes every season, Uncoupled only has eight. He also has Richman’s help to manage things and bounce ideas off. It is a small thing but has a huge impact on the final viewing experience.
In hindsight, Uncoupled presents a breezy, mixed bag of feelings with more of the good things. However hard the makers have tried to make it something more universal and speak heart to heart with the masses, Uncoupled will still likely not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Verdict - 7/10