Let's hope this 'Coupling' doesn't last long

The much-hyped new Brit-com "Coupling" (8:30 p.m., NBC) may not be very funny, but it's an interesting, if ultimately sad, phenomenon.

"Coupling" is not merely an Americanized version of an English comedy (which was in turn an Anglicized version of the American comedy "Friends"), it is a near-literal re-enactment of the British show. With the exception of a few translations from British slang and a couple of tweaked scenes, the American cast repeats the British script word for potty-mouthed word.

While there are moments of naughty banter, we're never invited to care about any of these frisky sex drones. In the space of 22 minutes, a couple has sex in the toilet, one guy asks another guy for a condom and a woman reveals one of her breasts to the rest of the cast. This soulless exercise in smarmy sexuality unfolds with the pointless precision of a porn movie without nudity, or a comedy without laughs. Let's hope this experiment ends quickly.

  • NBC celebrates the return of its "must see" lineup with the advent of "One Minute Movies," 60-second stories that will air during commercial breaks featuring the voices of Michael Richards, Tom Arnold, Carmen Electra, Bill Bellamy and others.
  • Elvis Costello performs on "Live By Request" (9 p.m., A&E;). Once the angry young voice of "new wave," Costello has mellowed over the past three decades, even recording a hit album with Burt Bacharach. Costello will take requests (via a special 800 number and the Internet). Look for old favorites as well as songs from his new album, "North," released last Tuesday.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Joey and Rachel confront their feelings while Monica tries to control her hair on the 10th-season opener of "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Paradise closes its doors on the finale of "Temptation Island 3" (7 p.m., Fox)
  • A morning-after filled with dread on the sixth-season premiere of "Will & Grace" (7:50 p.m., NBC).
  • The team tracks a serial killer on the fourth-season premiere of "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • A school bus carrying 13 children disappears on the second-season opener of "Without a Trace" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • Parminder Nagra ("Bend It Like Beckham") joins the cast as medical student Neela Rasgotra on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

Late night

Jennifer Garner appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets Alicia Silverstone and Nickelback on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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