Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cougar Town, "You Wreck Me": Is he really going out with her?

Spoilers for tonight's "Cougar Town" coming up just as soon as I get my fighting nails on...

It's been remarked on a time or twelve in the comments to previous episodes that some people are watching largely for the scenes with the guys, and are putting up with Jules' stories to get to them. "You Wreck Me" (named after one of the more underrated rockers in the Tom Petty catalog) was the first time I really felt that way, not just because Brian Van Holt, Ian Gomez and, now, Josh Hopkins bounce so well off of each other, but because I could barely tolerate Jules for much of the episode.

Between the writing and the way Courteney Cox recites every line of dialogue like she's been dialed up to 11, I started to get really baffled about why Josh the boy toy would want to put up with this shrill, high-maintenance, neurotic mess, no matter how hot a mess she might be. (And the pan up from the legs to the ratty t-shirt, night mask and night retainer was one of the few decent Jules-related jokes of the episode.)

Now, there came a point in the lifespan of "Scrubs" where JD was just as much of a freak in relationships as Jules is, but you have to consider two things: first, that it took the show years to get him to that point after starting him out as quirky but mostly a recognizable human; and second, that most fans absolutely couldn't stand JD once he got to that ridiculous level. (And the show was much-improved for pulling him back to earth in final season of its original incarnation.)

I'm not sure the "Cougar Town" writers yet have a handle on this character, and so long as Cox is still playing to the non-existent cheap seats as if she were still on a three-camera sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience, I fear she's going to remain this weird trainwreck of a character. And I don't think that's what Bill Lawrence and company intend for her. There have been moments in episodes (notably at the end of "Into the Great Wide Open") where the performance is toned down and the level of self-awareness rises enough for Jules to be likable, but they aren't coming often enough right now.

What did everybody else think?

35 comments:

Marc said...

I think there are more relatable moments in this show than in Parks and Rec and/or Community plus I like every one here.

Once again The MIDDle was great and teh better of the Indiana themed shows

DonBoy said...

I sort of love how all of the women call each other "Dude"...and then at the end the men learn that they appreciate a nice Cosmopolitan.

Craig Ranapia said...

I'm not sure the "Cougar Town" writers yet have a handle on this character,

But it's not as if they hire the writers on Monday and start shooting on Tuesday morning, is it? I accept that there's no mathematical formula for making a successful television show, and plenty of good ones have take a while to find their feet. But it feels like 'Parks and Recreation' all over again -- not so much half-baked as raw dough, and why should viewers be expected to hang around while the actors and writers are getting their expletive omitted together?

Rick said...

I watched the first couple weeks, and came home to find this on the TiVo tonight. I deleted it without watching it. Sorry, but I'm relegating this to "Alan watches so I don't have to" status.

Tyroc said...

Alan, I think you're dead on with your commentary. The 2nd episode was the only one I've really enjoyed.

Thus endeth the season pass.

Dudleys Mom said...

Personally, I'm really glad to have more watchable comedies on the air this year (and boy do I need laughter this year). Cox might be overselling it but I'm still liking this show, and she gets a little extra goodwill from me for just being generally likable (as do Julianna Margulies and Nathan Fillion in their respective shows). I actually find the fourth wall device on Modern Family more irritating than the flaws of Cougar Town, although I'm clearly in the minority on that opinion. That's why I don't get the big TV critic bucks, I guess.

Anonymous said...

fifteen minutes into this episode I couldn't even remember what courtney cox's storyline was about. and I think it's because they've written her to be this person who NEVER shuts up and I have subconsciously started tuning her out when she's on screen, in the same way that I tune out my coworker when she starts talking about her dog. but the guys are pretty entertaining, definitely the best part of this show. and the kid who plays her son reminds me of a teenage Dexter.

fuzzydunlop said...

Still feels like this show is written entirely by men. And not even gay men.

Fred App said...

I hadn't been watching the show, but because you've generally been complimentary, and because I loved "Scrubs," and because the remote control was too far away to grab when "Modern Family" ended, I started watching last night's episode. And after about five painful minutes, I actually mustered the energy to grab the remote, because I thought it was just horrible.

Brian said...

fuzzy - I intentionally looked last night at the writing credit, and it was a woman. That's staggering given the horrifically written female characters.

Alan - you nailed it with "And the pan up from the legs to the ratty t-shirt, night mask and night retainer was one of the few decent Jules-related jokes of the episode." That was the one moment when she wasn't trying to be a "cougar."

Bill has said so many times that it's not about being a cougar, but about dating in your 40s, but she dresses like a whore, talks about boobs half the time and generally becomes the lowest common denominator. That ruins what Bill says was the premise of the show.

Busy Phillips may have been good in other things, but she is horrible. Cox needs a Krista Miller to offset the dialed up performance, not a caricature trying to outdo Cox's shrillness.

The guys are saving the show. The best thing is that this is on last in the comedy block so it can be easily avoided after the other two shows which are fantastic.

Watch, ABC will screw it up and move it between Middle and Modern.

Romana said...

I don't know, I think Courteney is doing okay. It's just her invididual style of comedic acting. She reminded me even more of Monica in this episode than she has done so far on this show, which might not be a good thing. But I certainly don't find her scenes cringeworthy. The guys have a more subtle chemistry going, but I think the girls are hilarious, too. And I absolutely love Christa Miller's character.

Jon Delfin said...

Taking a brief intermission from CC-bashing, did anybody notice that Bobby hit his first tee shot left-handed, and was otherwise golfing right-handed? Did they flop the negative on the first?

Dan said...

@ Jon Delfin

I took it as Bobby showing off. He was a pro golfer at one point, and many pros (most are right-handed) practice hitting shots from the left side.

Sharon said...

"I started to get really baffled about why Josh the boy toy would want to put up with this shrill, high-maintenance, neurotic mess, no matter how hot a mess she might be."

That makes two of us. She rarely makes time for him, she criticizes his kissing, she makes him practice kissing an APPLE in PUBLIC - just an example of how TV men are different from real men, because the men I know would have written Jules off weeks ago.

amysa said...

Cox needs to bring Jules down to earth a bit, but I don't mind her being a manic mess. I do think they need to get away from the boy toy nonsense and stick to the relationships between the friends and her son, though. She and Dan Byrd are great together while the boyfriend stories are boring. And even though the manic Jules is irritating, I enjoy her loud "paper buddy" moments because I like that they've allowed them to irritate each other equally rather than just have her be the crazy shouty lady across the street. The whole show needs some work, but I like it enough to be happy that it got picked up for the full season.

The main thing that's come from it, though, is that I *really* like Josh Hopkins. He's a good actor, he's funny, cute and charming, but I've never liked him on anything. He's been *good* on things, but I disliked him most of the time. This show has made me like him quite a bit. It's sort of like Adam Scott. He was always good in everything I saw him in, but I never liked him at all until "Party Down" and now I love him.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the men are generally written better than the women on the show, it has to be said that the real problem is Jules/Cox. Busy Phillips isn't great, but I think she's better when playing off against Christa Miller than Cox. And I think Miller and Ian Gomez have okay chemistry, too, though not as loving as Gomez and Van Holt. But the show just doesn't know what to do with Jules.

In that vein, I really don't understand why we're spending so much time with Cox and Nick Zano (the boyfriend Josh), given how tremendously bland a character Josh is. Why not pair Cox with Dan Byrd more? Byrd seems reliably funny with most of the cast, and more mother/son scenes would humanize Jules a little. After all, Christa Miller's overmean character Ellie has been a little humanized by her son Stan, and I don't think we've ever even seen him.

Anonymous said...

On post: Amysa and I did not confer before writing our comments

Anonymous said...

on top of agreeing with most comments about Jules shrill-ness, is anybody else bothered, by Cox's burgeoning resemblance to Janice Dickinson?

Jon Delfin said...

@ Dan: I'm not a golfer, but wouldn't he need two complete sets of clubs to pull that off? Aren't they unidirectional?

Kyle said...

I noticed the left handed first shot as well...I suppose it's possible he would carry two drivers just for purposes of showing off, but otherwise carry just one set of clubs. I know in "official" play, there's a limit to how many clubs you're supposed to carry, but who knows if he cares.

In that same vein, isn't it odd a rank amateur would be able to beat a pro's course record after one little tweak to his swing?

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

"I started to get really baffled about why Josh the boy toy would want to put up with this shrill, high-maintenance, neurotic mess, no matter how hot a mess she might be."

I don't think anyone else on the show knows -- or much cares -- either. But it can be done: On BSG, I don't think anyone else had a clue what Saul and Ellen Tigh got out of their trainwreck of a marriage, but Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon sold it, with a considerable assist from strong writing and direction.

Compare and contrast.

Murph said...

How come her ex-husband (can't remember his name right now) swung left-handed on his first golf shot, but right-handed on his second? Check it out. Terrible. (It looks like he's a natural righty).

Byron Hauck said...

Ugh, it's not Courtney Cox's fault that she yells a lot of her lines. That's the way the jokes are written. There is no other way to deliver most of those lines that would even register as a joke. Blame the writing, not the actress.

Craig Ranapia said...

Byron:

She's not only the lead actor, but the show's produced by the production company she headlines with her husband (which might explain why she gets an exec producer credit).

And even if she wasn't, Cox is a deaf-mute who can't walk into a meeting and say she has issues with the material?

Anonymous said...
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Jenn said...

I tried to watch it twice and couldn't stand it either time.

Even if you buy the premise that someone who looks like Courtney Cox has trouble finding men, it's all so exaggerated and desperate.

What happened to the subtle humor of MASH, Golden Girls and Frasier?

dez said...

I mostly ignore Jules and concentrate on the other characters, especially, as others have noted, the men. Ian Gomez is my fave of the lot.

I wish the kid who played Raj on Aliens in America would show up for an ep to play off Jules' son, too :-)

amysa said...

"Frasier" was subtle?

@dez: One of the many reasons I'm stupid: I know that Christa was on "The Drew Carey Show" and I know that Ian was on that same show. I watched it for most of the run and liked them both, pretty much as a result of that show. Still...took me three episodes for the "oh, wait! they worked together before!" lightbulb to go off. Duh. Anyway, I love him too. He plays creepy well. He plays sweet well. This is some awesome melding of the two into a slightly innappropriate nice guy who acts twelve. I like it.

MM said...

Cox is screeching her lines with a nails on blackboard delivery. It's just awful & I wonder how anyone can stay in a room with Jules for more than a minute.
I thought this one might grow on me but last night was last episode I'll watch (even though I agree that the guys are reasonably entertaining).

TeD said...

Alan,

Tonight's Flash Forward best since pilot. Courtney VAnce, Christine Woods, Peter Coyote excellent. Great twists. I know you arent feeling it, but honestly you give some HBO a few episodes to find itself, this really came into its own in ep 5

HarrySTruman2 said...

I like to think of Jules as an aging Monica Geller on Ecstacy.

LA said...

Bill Lawrence - I implore you... rein CC in before she kills this otherwise funny show. She's getting more shrill and my tolerance of it is giving way with each passing episode.

Hunter13 said...

Amen to that!
I had to take several pauses to get through this episode.

Anonymous said...

I think this is it for me. Not that Cougar Town is terrible, because it's actually much better than I thought it would be and I do like Bill Lawrence, but I feel like there's a huge influx of new half hour comedies that I enjoy more (the much better newish P&R, Community and of course, Modern Family) on top of the ones I already watch (HIMYM, TBBT, CYE, The Office, 30 Rock, Party Down (when is it coming back anyway?)).

So, unless Community becomes unwatchable (so there's an open spot!), bye cougar town!