It doesn’t take a lot of signs to realize Darren Star is a co-creator of Neil Patrick Harris’ new comedy, “Uncoupled.”
“Sex and the City” is written all over it – from the friendly jabbing to the frequent talk about something other than the city.
The intense Harris plays a real estate agent who thinks his partner’s 50th birthday party is going to be the ultimate display of affection.
Unfortunately, just before they enter the lavish event, Colin (Tuc Watkins) tells him he’s moving out.
And then? Harris’ Michael Lawson has to figure out how he’s going to navigate life alone. A roll call of emotions follows and, soon, he’s navigating those treacherous waters.
Star gives him ample support – including a who’s who of Broadway stars – and situations that suggest he binged a lot of television during the pandemic.
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Michael traffics in “Million Dollar Listings” work (there’s even a Fredrik in one episode) and drops prescription names like the ad lineup on Bravo. There are one-liners that require a facility with social media and so many text messages you’ll wonder if this is close-captioned.
What surprises are the women who populate “Uncoupled.” Tisha Campbell – as a fellow real estate agent – is a gem, commenting better than Kim Cattrall at a martini party. When she and Harris are moving in the real estate world, they’re a great pair. “Uncoupled” is happier, too. When they’re together, it doesn’t swirl down the drain of self-pity.
Marcia Gay Harden also works well with others. She’s a potential client who has gone through the same trauma as Michael. Dumped by her husband, she brings out his inner whining – and it works.
To extend the “Sex and the City” connection, Star and co-creator Jeffrey Richman use Gilles Marini (Samantha’s hot boyfriend) as one of Michael’s hookups.
Brooks Ashmanskas and Emerson Brooks are the newly uncoupled’s guide through the world of Grindr, PrEP and unsolicited photos. They’re quick with pop culture references, but they’re not the one-two punch Campbell and Harden could be.
Because the series is divided into short, digestible installments, it’s easy to binge. But it isn’t the comedy its participants deserve.
Harris is too strong to play the pitiable bachelor. (Watkins would be a better choice). It’d be a wiser move to delve into his real estate world and let the “uncoupled” aspect be another aspect of life.
That would remove the “S&TC” comparisons and give Harris and Campbell a level playing field. Attempting to make this a gay version of Star’s greatest hit just seems like a network’s idea of success.
In the sixth episode, Harris finds a groove that’s better fitted for long-term success. It leans into the Campbell/Harden/Harris triangle and actually brings laughs. It's a gay "Odd Couple" -- a much better fit -- and a great showcase for Dan Amboyer as a potential partner.
A restart? “Uncoupled” doesn’t have to stay unhinged forever.
“Uncoupled” now airs on Netflix.