Do you remember how upset we all were with And Just Like That…the hugely disappointing HBO Max continuation of Sex and the City? The ultimately depressing series featured death, despair, hip surgery, and mind-boggling personality transplants of its iconic characters.
Well I have great news. Uncoupled, from Jeffrey Richman (Modern Family) and OG Sex and the City creator Darren Star, is the show And Just Like That should have been. Fun, funny, emotional, and full of characters and friendships you care about. A celebration of what it’s like to be in your 40s and 50s. Not a wake.
In Uncoupled, we follow successful New York City real estate agent Michael Lawson (Neil Patrick Harris), who has been with his partner Colin (Tuc Watkins) for 17 years. Their seemingly perfect life is upended when Colin unceremoniously moves out on the night of his surprise 50th birthday party.
With fabulous NYC locations as its backdrop, plus bouncy, playful theme music and frequent restaurant meals for its characters, Uncoupled is a 2022 version of Sex and the City swapping in gay men for straight women. The comparisons to the beloved HBO series are all right there for the taking. Michael, the show’s Carrie, is devastated and left to figure out what his life is without Colin, easily the show’s Big. Michael has his best friends Billy (Emerson Brooks) and Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), as well as his business partner Suzanne (Tisha Campbell), to help him navigate his newly single life. Stanley is an art dealer like Charlotte and unlucky in love like Miranda. Billy, who always has a new and much younger boyfriend on his arm, is the show’s Samantha, along with Suzanne who provides sly bon mots like, “They came after him like the Scientologists came after Leah,” and “It’s a little angrier in person… kind of like Ellen DeGeneres.”
They’re all helping Michael figure out a dating world that has changed a lot in the nearly two decades he’s been off the market. Now there are dick pics and swiping right and Grindr. There’s talk of PrEP and botoxed backsides. “You’ve been away a long time, Rip Van Winkle,” Billy tells him. The show talks frankly about sex and dating while dropping relationship advice like, “once you fart around each other, you can see the end of the relationship around the corner.”
So Michael, who hates now having to eat dinner alone, has a string of one night stands and rebound relationships as he begins to put Colin in his rearview mirror. There’s the young guy who doesn’t want to use condoms, an idea Michael balks at. “I can’t get turned on when all I can see is my name on that quilt,” Michael says. “What quilt?” the guy responds in a great example of the show highlighting the generational differences without making it seem like people over 40 have one foot in the grave.
And then there’s the schoolteacher who wants an instant relationship. “How can we break up after a week? We barely know each other,” Michael says when the guy balks at ending their short-lived romance. Unless you’ve been very, very, very lucky in love, almost everyone can relate to trying to move on after being dumped. And perhaps, along the way, the show can serve a dual purpose of opening the minds of some viewers who might not fully comprehend it doesn’t matter who you love—wanting to love and be loved in a universal emotion.
As the heart of the show, Harris is fantastic. For nine seasons on How I Met Your Mother, Harris deftly balanced his outrageous character with real nuance and relatable emotion. Even with his taglines and blatant sexism, Barney never became a caricature. Michael isn’t nearly as outrageous as Barney was, but Harris’ ability to balance humor, slapstick comedy and pathos is on full display in Uncoupled. Michael is easy to root for.
The supporting cast is also a delight. The show’s secret weapon is Marcia Gay Harden as Claire Lewis, a woman who, like Michael, has been unceremoniously dumped by her husband and enlists Michael and Suzanne to sell her apartment. Harden takes the bitter divorcee cliché and hilariously spins it on its head. A highlight of the series comes in the seventh episode when Suzanne, Claire and Suzanne’s friend Mia (guest star Tamala Jones) have a night out at an extremely exclusive club. “You’re not going to like her at first, but you’ll warm up as the night goes on,” Suzanne tells Mia.
Truly my only quibble is that the first season of the series is only eight episodes. I would like to go back to when television seasons were at least in the double digits, please. But the finale will leave you wanting more of Michael and his world. And just like that, the television comedy of the summer is here.
All eight episodes of Uncoupled premiere Friday, July 29th on Netflix.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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