Breaking up is hard to do, and it gets harder as we get older. We fall into routines and habits, and we always assume that, after a certain point, the one we are with is the one until the very end. For Netflix’s glossy, New York comedy fantasy, Uncoupled, we finally get a mainstream gay romance series that is more about loving yourself as it is about finding someone to share your life with.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Michael, a successful real estate agent whose husband, Colin (Tuc Watkins), throws him for a loop when he announces that he moved out just that morning. Colin’s timing couldn’t be worse, because he announces their one-sided separation the literal minute they are about to step into the lavish fiftieth birthday party that Michael spent months planning. Even though they have been together for seventeen years, the couple never got married, so Michael doesn’t even have a minute to plead his case through months and months of legal proceedings.
Michael is the type of person who enjoyed the phase of a relationship when you are so comfortable with one another that an exciting night is watching Netflix (the “ba-bum!” makes several appearances throughout this season). All of Michael’s friends are in different stages of their own romantic lives, so they offer a variety of advice. Billy (Emerson Brooks) is a player weatherman who runs away from his feelings while Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas) is an art dealer who encourages Michael to get on Grindr and start having sex right away. Michael’s biggest rock is Suzanne, Michael’s real estate partner played by Tisha Campbell. Give Campbell anything she wants or needs, Darren Star. As if jumping into the world of app dating and dick pics wasn’t, ahem, hard enough, Michael and Suzanne have to battle other gay agents (like the obnoxious Tyler) to list the property of Marcia Gay Harden’s Claire. Harden gives Claire an accent that can only be described as “rich” or “money.”
Uncoupled has been criticized for setting its problems in an untouchable world: everyone is too rich and too good-looking. I would argue, however, that Uncoupled (like Sex and the City, and, by extension Emily in Paris) is meant to be a frothy fantasy. Michael does have a lot of access being a cis, white, gay man, but the characters aren’t unaware of that. Could Michael’s conquests and potential hook ups have more diversity and inclusion? Absolutely.
Harris, as a figure in Hollywood, always comes across as a confident, talented performer. He can sing! He can dance! He can do magic! As Michael, this is Harris’ most personal performance to date. Other reviews have thought that Michael was bitter and angry, but he’s more devastated and unable to communicate his emotions simply because he is entering a world he is unfamiliar with. Doesn’t Michael have every right to curse the world when a nearly two decade long relationship ends abruptly? Michael thought he would always be safe with the security of his relationship to define him, and it’s amusing to watch Harris tap into that desperation. Watching someone as charming and intelligent as Harris grapple with confusion, heartbreak, and impatience makes for delightful comedy. More of Harris and Campbell in season two, please!
No one likes breaking up, but it’s a part of life. Uncoupled isn’t necessarily a romantic comedy as it is a hunt for self-acceptance. Michael continues to strike out, because he doesn’t know himself yet–at least the single 2022 version. Be kinder to yourself and love should follow.
Uncoupled is streaming now on Netflix.