Neil Patrick Harris directed by ‘Uncoupled’ is unlikely

The latest series from Sex and the City creator Darren Star follows a New York real estate agent (Neil Patrick Harris) after a bad breakup.

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By Valerie Ettenhofer Published 27 July 2022

In 1998, Darren Star changed television by creating sex and the city. Now with Netflix’s new breakup comedy Decoupledhe is co-creating a show with a script that appears to date from 1998. The series, which is co-created by former modern family executive producer Jeffrey Richman, is billed as a bittersweet story about a middle-aged gay man who reunites after his 17-year relationship suddenly falls apart. Unfortunately, the series is extremely heavy on the bitter and quite short on the sweet.

Neil Patrick Harris stars as Michael, a New York real estate agent who is deeply shaken when his longtime partner, Colin (Tuc Watkins), leaves him without warning. The eight-episode first season follows Michael through the emotionally raw first months of post-breakup single life, exposing the ups and downs of topics like joining dating apps, breaking up friend groups and moving on. thing.

Unfortunately for us viewers, Michael seems to see the world as lows, not highs. Harris is fascinating, utterly unlikable in the lead role for much of the series. All signs point to Michael being meant to come across as a hurt but empathetic protagonist. Yet Harris delivers retorts so caustic that the newly single man generally looks like an asshole.

To its credit, the script does the character no favors: we never learn much about what makes Michael happy, but we do have front row seats for the things that annoy and enrage him. “You’re the reason blue states turn red,” he says over the phone to a screaming gay man in the pilot episode, and I guess that’s meant to be funny. Throughout the season, he meets potential lovers and friends with an air of judgment. He may not roll his eyes, but he always looks like he’s a second away from doing so.

Michael isn’t the only obnoxious character: the entire series is full of mean, mean-spirited characters that often border on offensive. There’s Marcia Gay Harden as the freshly divorced Claire, who keeps abusing her kid and calling her fat ex. Then there’s Emerson Brooks’ Billy, who loves his dumb young boyfriends and who, along with Michael, loves to poke fun at their third best friend, Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas, series highlight) for reasons that are never quite clear. Even characters who are clearly meant to be likable, like Tisha Campbell’s Suzanne, make tired jokes about looking like a sex worker or going lesbian because they can’t get laid.

These jokes are not only impressively outdated, they are also often excruciatingly unfunny. “He’s my best friend: boyfriend forever,” Michael says at one point, to which Suzanne responds like it’s a Nickelodeon show: “More like BARF.” The show is full of moments like that, lines so weak and clichéd that it’s not always clear whether or not they’re intended as punchlines. Sometimes they’re downright weird too: long after I’ve forgotten the rest of the show, I’m sure I’ll be cursed to remember when one of Suzanne’s friends told her to “have a romantic evening with a man who wants to enter your vagina instead of one that came out of it.

Even in their campiest, least substantial form, Star’s works still have frothy story elements and style choices that make them enjoyable. Its frequently used playbook includes goofy dating stories, impressive sexually naive characters, and luxurious details that remind you that all these people are rich and unrelated, among other things. Decoupled has all of those things too, but without a good script or a track worth rooting for, they just aren’t enough to hold on to.

If the series has a saving grace, it is that it immediately puts its worst foot forward. The back half of the season is more watchable than the first, as a few glimpses of emotional truth shine through the uneven storyline. As Michael lets go of his grip on the bitterness that helped him survive the aftermath of the breakup, his story sometimes touches on something heartfelt. For all its flaws, there are hints of a better series about middle-aged gay men finding community here, deep beneath its frustrating surface. Unfortunately, by the time they finally bubble up, the bad first (and second and third) impressions of these characters are nearly impossible to shake.


Decoupled debuts on Netflix on July 29. Watch the show’s trailer here.

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Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, television enthusiast, and macaroni and cheese enthusiast. As a senior contributor to Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the television and documentary branches of the Critics Choice Association. Twitter: @aandeandval (She she)

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