DVD Flashback Friday: Cougar Town

I’ll admit it. I watched about the first five minutes of the first episode of Cougar Town when it premiered and then dumped it. I think it was the name. I mean, why would I want to watch a show about cougars? The thing is, that’s not really what the show is about. Not after the first couple episodes, anyway.

The series does start off kind of rocky, and I probably wasn’t the only person who wrote it off early on. Luckily, I had Tweep and fellow TV lover Remy give me the sound advice to hold out until the Thanksgiving episode. She was right. The Thanksgiving episode felt like a turning point in the series, and by the end of the season I was totally loving the show. I’ll probably watch the season two episodes thus far this weekend and be caught up by the time a new one airs.

I always liked Courtney Cox on Friends, but I find her character on Cougar Town more delightful. I’ll be the first to admit that Monica Geller could be grating at times. As Jules Cobb, Cox is wacky, goofy and completely lovable. But you have to get through the first few episodes, where she can be whiny and self-pitying in the wake of a divorce. The show begins with her realization that she missed her twenties because she had a kid young and got married. Now in her forties and with her crappy marriage finally over, she tries to relive them.

So this makes it sound like the show is about cougars. But it’s not. Jules learns pretty quickly that the lifestyle of a 22-year-old is not for her, and that is the point where the show really finds its footing.

Cougar Town is one of those shows that I love more for its likable cast than its impeccable writing. The show is not, for me, on the same level as Modern Family, Community, or early seasons of The Office. It’s more in the realm of Friends or Will & Grace for me – totally enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. (Yes, I get that Will & Grace was groundbreaking in its portrayal of gay characters. But I don’t think the actual jokes on that show were anything to write home about.)

Busy Phillips really stands out as Laurie, one of Jules’ two best friends and her co-worker. I love Busy Phillips from her roles on Freaks and Geeks and ER, and she’s playing an entirely different character on this show. Laurie is brash, feisty, and kind of trashy, but in an awesome way. Phillips just nails the role and is absolutely hilarious. Christa Miller plays Jules’ other best friend, Ellie. Ellie has been friends with Jules for a long time and lives next door to her. She’s a lawyer who now stays home with her baby and is tough, funny, and kind of mean. It took me a long time to appreciate Ellie (because she’s mean and self-centered) but now I see the humor in the character. Her husband Andy, played by Ian Gomez, is the perfect foil – sweet, goofy and soft.

Bobby Cobb is Jules’ ex-husband, played by Brian Van Holt. He’s kind of a loser (OK, totally a loser) who cheated on Jules all the time and is constantly broke. He’s a failed professional golfer, lives on a boat in a parking lot, and is still a huge part of Jules’ life. What’s great about Bobby’s character is that he’s likable enough that you don’t hate his guts, but he’s a big enough screw-up that you empathize with Jules as she recovers from the divorce. Another stand out character is Travis, Jules’ son played by Dan Byrd. He’s sarcastic, but not in an annoying way – and the way his parents constantly embarrass him makes it completely justified.

Finally, Josh Hopkins plays Grayson, a recently divorced guy who lives across the street from Jules. In the beginning of the season he serves mostly as a foil for Jules – he brings home a different twenty-something blonde every night without feeling any shame, while Jules struggles with the idea of dating younger men. Their banter quickly turns into a classic will-they-or-won’t-they romance. It’s not a bad thing, and the two characters have tons of chemistry. It’s just an example of how Cougar Town isn’t really going to deliver anything unexpected. It’s a steady, funny show that you can count on. It’s the vodka & cranberry of sitcoms – everyone knows how to make it right and it never gets old.

Of course, there is one major character on the show that I haven’t mentioned yet – wine.

The characters on this show (minus Travis, because he’s 18) drink red wine by the boatload. It’s featured prominently every week. The show is essentially about people who sit around and drink wine all day. Most of them are well off. They talk about their problems, which are rarely large. They have funny escapades. The show probably isn’t for anyone – there are people who will find it annoying, the way I’ve always found Gossip Girl to be kind of annoying. But if you dropped it early on like me, you should really give it a second chance. It’s really not about cougars.

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