Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC

Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC
Neil Patrick Harris in Uncoupled (image via Netflix)

Neil Patrick Harris stars in the new Netflix rom-com Uncoupled, where his 40-something character, Michael Lawson, finds himself suddenly single after his boyfriend of 17 years (Colin, played by the always dependable Tuc Watkins) inexplicably leaves him.

Along the way, he has his real estate office partner Suzanne (Tisha Campbell), and single gay besties –  local weatherman Billy (Emerson Brooks) and erstwhile art dealer Stanley ( Brooks Ashmanskas) – to help him down the path of being single again.

The series, from Jeffrey Richman and Darren Star, the latter of whom created the iconic Sex and the City, has a lot in common with its older cousin: gorgeous shots of the New York City location, a jazzy ‘grown-up’ feeling soundtrack, and affluent lead characters finding their way through mid-life.

Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC
(via Netflix)

Warning: possible spoilers ahead…

I came away with checks in both the plus and minus columns.

On the one hand, I appreciate the representation of LGBTQ characters in leading characters. As many queer folks know, for decades LGBTQ characters were either portrayed as somehow pathetic, or as psychotic murderers or the like. It’s nice to see this group get to be normal people.

I also give kudos for casting Marcia Gay Harden as Michael’s uber-rich client Claire, who is going through her own divorce. While Claire has little sympathy for Michael, Harden has the gravitas to bring some semblance of ‘diva-dom’ to the role that the creative team seems to be shooting for.

As a whole, the series is delivered with style and easy to digest. And in these turbulent times, that is definitely a plus.

Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC
Neil Patrick Harris and Tisha Campbell in Uncoupled (via Netflix)

That said, I had a couple of problems with Uncoupled.

First, aside from Michael, the other characters saw very little character development until the final episode. Suddenly, in episode 8, Suzanne, Billy, Stanley, Claire, and Colin all received the kind of screen time and details that made them more than mere sidekicks.

My other quibble was while Michael clearly fears jumping back into the dating world in his 40s, the writing seemed to swing wide in terms of comedy style.

At some points, Neil Patrick Harris’s character is in moment-to-moment realness, and in the next he’s suddenly going on a wild, psychotic rant that either one possible paramour is actually attracted to him, or another is well-endowed causing Michael to flee the scene.

In an early episode, he freaks out that a hook-up doesn’t use condoms due to the arrival of PrEP almost a decade ago. Harris’s Michael acts as if he’s never even HEARD of PrEP, which comes across as nearly impossible living in NYC and having sexually-active gay buddies in the dating pool.

Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC
L-R Brooks Ashmankas, Neil Patrick Harris, Emerson Brooks (via Netflix)

Those moments, shared with his friends at high-end restaurants with $25 martinis, tawny art gallery showings, or in their million-dollar apartments, don’t really find the sympathy I believe the creatives were going for.

I realize those moments are played for comedy, but once the creative team established one style comedy, to jump into another lane for a few minutes is a bit jarring. Either play for emotional groundedness or go for the jokes, folks. But as written, it’s a bit of a tossed salad.

Review: Neil Patrick Harris Is ‘Uncoupled’ In Gay NYC
Marcia Gay Harden in Uncoupled (via Netflix)

I will give credit to moments like Harden’s Claire expressing her hurt after losing friends to her ex-husband post-divorce. Thoughtful and well-played.

But for a romantic comedy, there wasn’t much “romance” going on. And, as I mention, the comedy aspect switches gears in a halting manner that there aren’t a lot of actual laughs.

One more thing – we seem to wait and wait and wait to find out why Colin left Michael in the first place. It’s not until the final episode we get ‘something’ of a reason, but it’s a vague toss away. That said, there is a twist waiting for folks in the final seconds of the season finale.

I think if you love Sex and the City/And Just Like That… you’ll definitely have an appetite for the semi-pensive world of NPH and company. But if those aren’t your cup of tea, you may want to skip the art galleries and $25 martinis of Uncoupled.