Light and breezy for the most part, this Neil Patrick Harris star vehicle can be witty and heart-warming when it counts. Definitely a grower, not a shower.
This review of the Netflix series Uncoupled season 1 does not contain any major spoilers.
Neil Patrick Harris has been starring in TV comedies since the late eighties, renowned for his breakout role as a teenage doctor in Doogie Howser, M.D. and of course his legendary performance as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. The highly influential star returns to the spotlight once again, headlining this hilarious new Netflix Original, which he has also executive produced. NPH plays Michael, a newly single forty-something-year-old gay man, who is shamelessly dumped out of the blue and left to navigate the perilous world of modern dating in New York City for the first time in nearly two decades.
In the opening episode Michael, a charismatic real estate agent, plans the perfect surprise party for his boyfriend of seventeen years, who is now turning fifty. But partner Colin (Tuc Watkins) has his own surprise in store, informing poor Michael that he has moved out of the apartment, leaving him without giving a single reason for this sudden departure. This premise creates an enthralling mystery that you’ll be desperate to unravel. Why would Colin leave, after all these years, without any warning and no explanation? It’s a great setup that the series is quick to establish.
After the painful break-up, Michael leans heavily on his best friends Billy (a TV star) and Stanley (an art dealer) for moral support and all the dating advice they can muster. This close knit trio really grow on you as the show progresses, each with their own flaws and foibles, each dealing with their own dating woes and aging crises. Michael tries to ignore these mounting issues by throwing himself into his work with the help of his business partner Suzanne (who is a laugh riot). He has a potential client on the horizon in divorcee millionaire Claire (played by Marcia Gay Harden), although rival realtor Tyler Hawkins is on the prowl, ready to swoop in and steal this potentially lucrative gig from them.
There’s plenty going on in these breezy, thirty minute instalments. The show looks pristine and is expertly shot, brimming with quick-witted humor, authentic relationship drama and some wise reflections. Neil Patrick Harris is an absolute joy, effortlessly providing laughs and depth, sometimes delivering both in the same moment. His top class performance steadies the ship and gives the show real purpose, which upgrades the material in the process too.
The nature of the premise means that Netflix’s Uncoupled completely centers on this devastating break-up, which inevitably leads to some repetitive dialogue and predictable scenarios. Michael meets many eligible, young bachelors on his journey and gets into a few sitcom-heavy, unfortunate predicaments along the way too. This episodic formula drives each chapter, whilst Michael’s own personal arc plays more quietly in the background. When the show runners focus on Michael’s emotional development and self-reflection, the series breaks free of these comical shackles and delves into deeper, more engaging territory. The show manages to just about strike the right balance overall, though I’d have preferred more of the emotional side to the story.
Uncoupled is a promising debut from Darren Star and Jeffrey Richman that has the potential to become another classic rom-com series for the duo, if renewed for a second season. Neil Patrick Harris works his magic once again, reminding audiences why he was always such a firm favorite in the first place.
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