What is The Couple Next Door based on? Inspiration behind the Channel 4 steamy drama

There's been some confusion surrounding the basis of the show

Eleanor Tomlinson, Alfred Enoch and Jessica De Gouw in The Couple Next Door
(Image credit: Channel 4/Future)

What is The Couple Next Door based on? We break down the inspiration behind the Channel 4 sizzling drama starring Eleanor Tomlinson and Sam Heughan.

Channel 4 is bringing dark steaminess to our screens in The Couple Next Door. Sam Heughan stars as traffic cop Danny, who might appear to be the picture-perfect father but is hiding some secrets. His personal trainer and yoga influencer wife Becka (Jessica De Gouw), had a hippie upbringing and feels claustrophobic being a wife and mother in boring suburbia. 

When struggling journalist Pete (Alfred Enoch), and his sheltered wife Evie (Eleanor Tomlinson) move in next door to Danny and Becka, passions and frustrations run high and end with potentially dangerous consequences. With recent popular dramas My Life with the Walter Boys, Platform 7 and A Nearly Normal Family based on a multitude of inspirations, viewers are asking questions about the basis of The Couple Next Door - with some confusion over the influence behind the series, we are here to clear that up.

What is The Couple Next Door based on?

The Couple Next Door is loosely based on a Dutch TV series called New Neighbours, which was based on the book of the same name by Saskia Noort.

The show's creators are keen to make it clear that it is not based on a completely different book that just happens to share a name with the show, with writer David Allison saying "We are not based on the best-selling book The Couple Next Door [by Shari Lapena], to avoid confusion. It is very loosely based on a Dutch series called New Neighbours which was a massive hit in Holland and ran for several series." Shari Lapina's The Couple Next Door tells an entirely different story of a child abducted when her parents are at a dinner party at a neighbour's house. 

Allison suggested he wanted to explore the unwritten rules of life in suburbia within the show, and those who want to be different but are stifled by the boundaries expected of them. "For a long time, I’ve wanted to find a vehicle to explore the ideas of what suburbia is because I think a lot of us grew up in suburbia," he said.

He added "Mine was a bit more down market than this one, but there are interesting unwritten boundaries and rules that everyone understands. So, it’s about a couple moving into this world, who think they understand each other having been in this long-term relationship. For Becka and Danny, it’s about trying to live as you really are in this world that doesn’t want you to be like that. It becomes quite Gothic towards the end." 

Dries Vos directed the series, and when asked if he'd seen the original Dutch show, his answer was categoric. "No, never," he said, continuing "I never look at the original, otherwise there is a trap that you are trying to be like or deliberately not be like the previous director. You must have your own voice." 

Sam Heughan and Jessica De Gouw in The Couple Next Door

(Image credit: Channel 4)

Where is The Couple Next door filmed?

Although set in Leeds, The Couple Next Door was filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Viewers will instantly recognise the series is not actually filmed in Leeds, and director Dries Vos says this was deliberate, to immediately initiate unease in those tuning in. "It is set in Leeds, but the houses and streets, everything feels a bit off," he said, adding "There are a lot of dream sequences in there as well. And so, all these add up. It feels a little bit off, and not too realistic, and that’s what I like about it."

While the internal scenes were filmed in Belgium, Vos suggested the crew were unable to find the right street there for the outdoor sequences, which is when they turned to the Netherlands. "The area has different quarters, each supposedly representing a different country, so it’s wonderful because it’s the perfect place," he explained.

Describing the area further, he added "There's a French quarter, there's an American quarter, there's an Italian quarter and there's an English quarter. It is extraordinary. We’re a very small crew, but also a very flexible one, so that was completely new for them [the cast] to see how fast we could work."

Hugh Dennis in The Couple Next Door

(Image credit: Channel 4)

The Couple Next Door: Cast

  • Sam Heughan (Outlander, Bloodshot) as Danny
  • Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark, The Outlaws) as Evie
  • Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula) as Becka
  • Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter, How To Get Away With Murder) as Pete
  • Hugh Dennis (Outnumbered, Fleabag) as Alan
  • Kate Robbins (Crossroads, After Life) as Jean
  • Joel Morris (The Buckingham Murders, The Long Shadow) as Gary
  • Janine Duvitski (One Foot in the Grave, Benidorm) as Gloria
  • Ioanna Kimbook (Choose or Die, Wedding Season) as Sophie
  • Daniel Bell (Black Mirror, Big Tree City) as Olly
  • Deirdre Mullins (The Drowning, Shadow and Bone) as Lena
  • Mark Frost (Poldark, Coronation Street) as Robbie Spencer
  • Andrew Woodall (The Reckoning, Lockwood & Co.) as Brian
  • Anastasia Hille (The Missing, Baptiste) as Susan
  • Katie Clarkson-Hill (Hanna, The Innocents) as Rachel
  • Noah Holdsworth (Hollyoaks) as Ethan
  • Stephanie Street (Master of None, Vera) as Jas Atha
  • Clare Burt (The Long Shadow, Call The Midwife) as Paula

Hugh Dennis spoke about stepping away from his usual comedy roles to portray Alan in the series. He said "I like the fact that it is very different from everything I've done. He's a guy with almost no redeeming features. And he is dark. The briefing notes say he is a ‘Peeping Tom’. But the way I was trying to play him is a man dealing with ageing very badly."

He continued "It’s what happens as you get older, and most people choose far more sensible routes like taking up drawing [laughs] but his frustration and melancholy turns to bitterness, which made him very interesting to me. He is angry with the fact that life is slipping away from him. It takes a sinister tone as his bitterness is focussed on the people being happy over the other side of the road, so he becomes obsessed with Becka." 

Eleanor Tomlinson in The Couple Next Door

(Image credit: Channel 4)

The Couple Next Door: Reviews

Early reviews suggest The Couple Next Door is definitely worth adding to your watch list, if you like easy viewing steaminess.

Hollie Richardson from the Guardian described the show as "A juicy, farcical thriller to have some fun with." Her thoughts were "Swingers! Sexy barbecues! Hugh Dennis as a creepy yoga fanatic! 'Hello suburbia!' swoons Pete (Alfred Enoch) as he arrives at his new home with his pregnant wife, Evie (Eleanor Tomlinson). When their neighbours Becka (Jessica De Gouw) and Danny (Sam Heughan) pop over to say it’s 'so good to have some new young blood on the street', trouble is clearly ahead." 

Abby Robinson from Radio Times had some reservations, but agreed the thriller would be something addictive to just lose yourself in. She said "There's a distinct lack of subtlety and nuance in The Couple Next Door, with some characters resembling archetypes rather than real, flesh-and-blood people, but it's slickly made and it does have something to say about long-term relationships and the so-called rules we establish for ourselves, sex and desire and how our wants and needs shift over time. The Couple Next Door won't sweep the board during awards season, but it's an incredibly moreish series that will keep you coming back for more."

Similar sentiments were echoed by Rebecca Cook from Digital Spy. She offered "Outlander fans coming over to The Couple Next Door in the hopes of more hot and heavy Heughan won't be disappointed, although this contains less of the romance and never quite reaches the sparky heights of Jamie and Claire." Likening the show to Desperate Housewives, she concludes there's similarities, "Although perhaps not enough in the ways we would want – but it's nice enough." 

We've also looked into what Brie Larson's Lessons in Chemistry is based on, and whether it's a true story. For those asking if Netflix's Burning Betrayal is based on a true story and what inspired gothic horror The Fall of the House of Usher, we have all the answers you need. 

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.