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Still funny.....but no matter what, it was always going to suffer
on 8 July 2009
Imagine taking Joey out of Friends. Imagine taking the Cat out of Red Dwarf. Imagine removing Baldrick from Blackadder's side. What if there was no Barney in How I Met Your Mother, no GOB in Arrested Development or if Green Wing was lacking Dr. Alan Statham. Such occurances would by no means spell the end of a show (probably for commercial reasons), but they should. Ensemble comedy is exactly that. There are several cogs, and they are all integral. Yeah the show can go on, but it won't be quite as good.
The same can be said of Coupling Season 4. No Jeff means less laughs. Not necessarily because Oliver, try as he might, is any less technically funny, but because over three previous seasons we've grown to love and appreciate everything that Jeff did and said. Would the show be the same if Patrick or Steve had left? No, it would have suffered greatly. The same for the characters of Susan, Jane and Sally.
The trouble with this season is that it's different. The emptiness left by Richard Coyle's departure is felt all the more keenly precisely because Oliver is basically superfluous. We already had a witty, nervous, wreck of a man in Steve,, and the sheer bizarre audacity of some of Jeff's comedy is sorely lacking.
Moffat's writing is still sharp as ever, and the rest of the cast are on form as always. The feel is the same, the tone identical. But the dynamic has changed, and not for the better. Unavoidable perhaps, but lamentable all the same.
Give it a try. There are still some very funny laugh-out-loud moments, and the character development of the old core five is excellent. But there is definitely something lacking. And his name is Jeff.