There are two exceptional aspects to take note of in Channel 4’s new drama series, The Couple Next Door. The show explores the explosive impact of a sexually adventurous couple on a conservative pair who become their neighbors. Firstly, it is able to be alluring instead of cringeworthy. This is extremely rare and is achieved through a clever and intricate script that seamlessly connects all the narrative threads and allows enough time for each relationship within the group to develop realistically. Writer David Allison understands that even individuals who are destined to share a bed with each other are still capable of having thoughts and conversations about other things while desire simmers in the background, and even adding some humor along the way. It is unclear if this element was present in the original Dutch series, New Neighbours, or if Allison had the foresight to maintain it, but it is incredibly well-executed. An award should be created to recognize any creation that can deliver natural and believable banter between spouses, as Allison does here.
One notable aspect is the choice of Hugh Dennis to play a stalker. Dennis portrays Alan, who becomes fixated on Becka, a more adventurous member of a group of swingers (portrayed by Jessica de Gouw). De Gouw skillfully depicts a woman navigating a life she never expected, which will soon take a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, Dennis, known for his light-hearted roles in shows like Outnumbered and Not Going Out, delivers a chilling performance as Alan’s sinister character unfolds. Initially portrayed as a loser, Alan’s actions become increasingly concerning as his circumstances change and his desires intensify. Even without the unexpected casting, Dennis’s portrayal is impressive, but it adds an eerie element to the overall production.
The main story of the book The Couple Next Door is relatively simple. It poses the question, what would you do if you were suddenly faced with opportunities that you never thought you would consider? Evie, a teacher who was brought up strictly in a Christian environment, (expertly portrayed by Eleanor Tomlinson as she transitions from naivety to curiosity and eventually to greed after a series of key events) and her husband Pete (played by Alfred Enoch, who does a great job of portraying a man desperately trying to catch up to his wife as she chases after possibilities that she doesn’t fully understand) are complete opposites to their new neighbors Becka and Danny (Sam Heughan, who focuses too much on hiding his Scottish accent and doesn’t quite match the nuanced performances of the rest of the cast). The new neighbors are non-monogamous, which is explained in a few awkward scenes as they try to clarify it for both their new friends and the readers. This revelation causes both Pete and Evie to widen their eyes, but for different reasons.
There are multiple storylines, with the main one centered on Danny’s connection to a dishonest city council member who could potentially reveal a major scoop for journalist Pete’s newspaper. However, The Couple Next Door primarily focuses on relationships. What occurs when emotions begin to interfere with enjoyment? Unequal emotions, unrequited feelings, emotions more powerful than love, love stronger than any other emotion? How do morality and suppressing natural desires differ? And what happens when these desires can no longer be contained?
As the sexual and other conflicts arise, particularly with Alan’s increasing hostility and his wife Kate Robbins discovering his twisted hideout upstairs, there is also a reflection on contemporary masculinity. Skinny Pete scoffs as Evie teases him about Danny’s muscular body, but their contrasting vulnerabilities highlight the effects of voyeurism and criticism from others. It questions whether it is possible to ever truly escape this, particularly in the digital age.
However, it can also be enjoyable and alluring. Have fun.