The Washington Post

The problem with ‘Uncoupled’? Every single thing.

- BY INKOO KANG

A middle-aged protagonis­t’s expectatio­ns of growing old in comfort and style with their rich, handsome partner in a tastefully grand Manhattan apartment are unsparingl­y dashed when said partner makes an abrupt departure. Stunned and devastated, the childless protagonis­t looks to a pair of longtime pals for support, as well as a prickly new friend who comes attached to a major real estate deal. A spirited but shambolic co-worker encourages the protagonis­t to figure out the next chapter of their life, while shots of a squeaky-clean, casually plutocrati­c New York, set to a jaunty, jazzy score, suggest that one’s post-40 years can be so much more than fretting in front of a mirror.

That’s the story of the quinquagen­arian Carrie Bradshaw in “And Just Like That . . . ,” the “Sex and the City” sequel series that premiered last year. It’s also the plight of Neil Patrick Harris’s Michael Lawson in “Uncoupled,” the charmless new Netflix comedy from Jeffrey Richman and

Darren Star, the latter of whom created the iconic HBO show (and later ceded creative control to Michael Patrick King).

Like Carrie, Michael has to start over unexpected­ly after years of feeling settled — though in his case, it’s because his boyfriend, Colin ( Tuc Watkins), moves out after 17 years together

with nary an explanatio­n. For most of the season’s eight episodes, Colin remains a cipher (though it’s not as if any of the other characters get much fleshing-out).

Dating as a gay man in one’s late 40s is a nightmare, Michael complains, particular­ly when so much has changed about hookup culture since the mid-2000s; an entire episode is dedicated to the norms and mores of Grindr. But the real estate agent doesn’t get much sympathy from his richest client, Claire (Marcia Gay Harden, seemingly willing herself into camp diva status through overthe-top line deliveries). Mid-divorce from a philanderi­ng husband, the loudly self-pitying Claire dares Michael to compare his situation to hers — and he’s happy to oblige.

Star’s characters have tended to grow older with him. The former wunderkind behind “Beverly Hills, 90210” followed up “Sex and the City” with “Younger,” the irrepressi­ble romantic sitcom starring Sutton Foster as a 40-year-old woman who poses as a 20-something when no one will hire her for an entry-level job, and “Emily in Paris,” the weightless but compulsive­ly watchable girlboss fantasy in which Lily Collins’s titular ingenue will never be as interestin­g or charismati­c as her middleaged French colleagues.

One might hope, then, that Star’s latest show would offer some insight into the aging process, especially given that it’s the gay TV auteur’s first series with a gay male protagonis­t. But “Uncoupled” is flat, joyless and surprising­ly cold-looking. Star’s best shows, like “Sex and the City” and “Younger,” tend to be triumphs of casting, but it’s hard not to get the sense that Harris — so heartbreak­ing in his recent turn on HBO Max’s AIDS drama “It’s a Sin” — is substantia­lly miscast, seemingly handcuffed by the demands of broad-appeal likability. The actor is most inventive in roles that evince authority, like the smarmy, manic know-it-all Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother.” As the perplexed and adrift Michael, who’s not sure how he’s supposed to feel about being the wreckage of someone else’s midlife crisis, Harris seems less assured, more stuck in his head.

Though it takes a couple of episodes to get there, the actor does conjure a playful spark with Tisha Campbell, who plays his office partner, Suzanne. But it’s not until the final episode that Suzanne and Michael’s friends — libertine weatherman Billy (Emerson Brooks) and hangdog art dealer Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), analogues for Samantha and Charlotte, respective­ly — get any significan­t character developmen­t.

What the show lacks most conspicuou­sly, though, especially given its fatalistic air, is moments of emotional groundedne­ss. There are a few scattered about, most poignantly Claire’s loss of her friends postdivorc­e, since they decide to side with her much-wealthier husband. “Uncoupled” tries to balance out its aspiration­al trappings with sexual frankness, but the perfectly trim and hairless bodies on display undercut that effort, too.

If “And Just Like That ... ” made female middle age look like one long slog, “Uncoupled” doesn’t have much to add from a gay man’s perspectiv­e, despite the small representa­tional milestone it achieves. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that it’ ll mostly just make you nostalgic for Star’s earlier work.

 ?? NETFLIX ?? Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Michael Lawson, is a man adrift after his longtime boyfriend moves out unexpected­ly. Tisha Campbell plays his work colleague, Suzanne, who, like other characters on the show, receives little developmen­t until the final episode.
NETFLIX Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Michael Lawson, is a man adrift after his longtime boyfriend moves out unexpected­ly. Tisha Campbell plays his work colleague, Suzanne, who, like other characters on the show, receives little developmen­t until the final episode.

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