Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cougar Town, "Rhino Skin": I'll be there for (insulting) you

A review of last night's "Cougar Town" - a show that continues to display an impressive creative growth curve - coming up just as soon as I emerge from my chrysalis...

The headline news for "Rhino Skin" is obviously the quasi-"Friends" reunion of Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, and that part of the episode worked just fine. If you watched "The Comeback" (which I couldn't stand but respected, if that makes sense) or have seen Kudrow's indie film work, you know she was the most versatile, fearless member of the "Friends" cast. So here she had no problem throwing herself into the role of vicious dermatologist Dr. Evans, and there wasn't even a hint of the Phoebe/Monica dynamic in her scenes with Cox as Jules.

But what really struck me about the episode was how confident the show has become in its chaotic storytelling style, in its ability to quickly set up funny but weird jokes (like Laurie's fascination with the First Name/Last Name situation), and, especially, to be able to break down and psychoanalyze the characters without ever seeming preachy or getting in the way of the jokes.

So we had the brilliant subplot about Andy schooling Travis on reading and reacting to women's moods (and being right at every turn, where the lamer, more predictable route would be for him to screw things up). We had Scott Foley in his second episode already being treated like a fact of life for Jules and the show, content to be in the background and make sarcastic asides until called on for more in the final Scrabble scene. We had Grayson being nice to Laurie and telling her a truth about men (that hotness counts more than couth) every bit as universal as what Andy was teaching Travis about women. And we had the usual good jokes about Bobby's white trashiness (the vases of wine), Ellie and Laurie's dislike of each other (the six-foot buffer zone whenever Jules isn't around), etc.

Bill Lawrence admitted back in the summer that the felt the original cut of the pilot felt like a show about women obviously written by men. And there were definitely times early in the season where the male characters seemed to be walking away with what was supposed to be a female-centric show. Now, though, "Cougar Town" feels just like any Lawrence comedy when it's a clicking: a show about weird, funny people, written by weird, funny people.

What did everybody else think?

21 comments:

Joseph Thomson said...

I really enjoyed this one.

First week I think Cougar Town beats Modern Family.

JanieJones said...

I've had some trouble warming to this show but it's slowly growing on me. I enjoyed last night's episode.
I thought the subplot of Andy schooling Travis was the most amusing.
I enjoyed seeing Kudrow as the cold, sarcastic, condescending doctor. Alan, you are right about her being the most versatile of "Friends" cast when it comes to acting and choosing projects. I've enjoyed some her indie films.
Also, the whole "street" smart vs. "book smart" was a nice underlying theme.
I like the supporting cast and think the show has room to grow.

forg/jecoup said...

They utilized the cast very well. I enjoyed Lisa Kudrow's guesting, hope she returns

Anonymous said...

I had to watch the first half the of the episode again just to see business professional Laurie laughing at the suit guy's "banker" joke, and then being like, "Wait, why is that funny?"

Everything that Busy Philipps says on the show is great, but that scene at the bar with her and Bobby (who thought someone was trying to strangle him when he was wearing a suit) was hysterical. Even Grayson (who I think is the weakest link) knocked it out of the park this week from his "Up is down, black is white, Jon is Kate" line, to actually being nice for once.

knocsucow00 said...

Kudrow was drinking wine out a mustard jar. Fantastic.

keyser soze said...

Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoy this show. I enjoy every single one of the characters (Grayson took a while to grow on me though), and that's very difficult for an ensemble to accomplish. Typically there's a weakest link. But I can't help but feel like women always come off looking like morons...

For example, in this episode we have (1) Grayson telling Laurie that she was noticed by her "butt, boobs, and face -- IN THAT ORDER" (emphasis added), and while Laurie isn't the brightest bulb, I don't think this is positive for women OR men. Women should continue to be concerned about their looks (a message this show repeats weekly), and all men are shallow?

This episode also had the idea that (2) men will sleep with any woman that will let them -- which is insulting to men and gives women false agency. (Wielding that power isn't exactly a positive thing.)

And, as much as I love Travers and Andy together (they're such a good pair), I was pretty offended at the idea that (3) women are predictable, easily manipulated, and have irrational bouts of anger that they'll later feel guilty about.

I don't mean to go a gender prescription rant, but this episode was full of them -- beginning to end. (Were there any jokes in this episode not about gender and not, in some way, reductionist and slightly offensive?) But again, I like the characters and enjoyed the episode, but it's STILL a show about women written by men. (The men are clearly more put together and rational than any of the women.) I just wish that the writers didn't prescribe to stereotyping the genders for their jokes. There's more potential there.

dez said...

@keyser sose, you raise some good points. I still laughed hard when Andy "won" the imaginary contest with the hot guy who had the less-hot-than-Andy's-wife girlfriend, but that's probably a function of the writing still being better for the men than the women on this show.

Q Ball said...

keyser soze,

I think what makes those jokes funny is that there is a grain of truth to them. Just because there is a grain of truth does not mean that the show is implying women have extreme mood swings or that all men are shallow. I've lived long enough to see that both points are true to some extent, which makes those jokes funnier in my mind.

savedbythetube said...

I agree that the male-lead writing staff still has some work to do figuring out these women, and they could stand easing up on the Mars vs. Venus theme for a few episodes.

But I think the male and female characters are usually portrayed in equally irrational and in secure ways, which works for this comedy ensemble (and probably often reminds us of people in our own lives in an over-the-top sort of way).

Overall, this was one of my favorite episodes thus far because it showcased what I've come to like about each of the characters. Grayson being reluctantly nice and insightful, Laurie struggling between insecurity and man-eating confidence, Andy schooling Travis...

I was a little confused by Scott Foley's seemingly sudden insertion into Jules' life, but his little asides during the double date made it work really well.

LA said...

This was a very fun episode, especially the Andy/Travis B-story, Grayson/Laurie C-story, and the return of Barb (in a dermatologist's ofc, perfection).

There's a serious Tom Petty fan naming these episodes. Rhino Skin is a very random and deep cut on Echo. Next week's episode is called Scare Easy, a pre-Heartbreakers Mudcrutch tune. I'd like to buy the writer naming these episodes a drink, maybe we can meetup at the next Dirty Knobs gig.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Kudrow's rant against botox was interesting considering she looks her age (46) compared to Courtney Cox's 45.

Sparky Z said...

Am I the only one who noticed that the scrabble game at the end was wrong? "Zit" gets Jules 32 points at most. Jeff's word (was it "betoken"?) gets a 50 point bonus for using all seven letters. There's no way she was ahead.

Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

David Bassin said...

I have no recollection of Scott Foley being on the show prior to this episode....when did he first show up?

dez said...

@David Bassin, I think he was in the last ep before this one, as the obnoxious guy Jules had to keep showing the same house to over and over.

David Bassin said...

Of course.....the hiatus played tricks with my memory!

BigTed said...

At some point during this episode I realized that this show is structured extremely similarly to "The New Adventures of Old Christine" -- except with much, much hotter actors.

Blue said...

@Anonymous 1:27:

Agreed--it was so bizarre to see a woman who hadn't had any work done next to a woman who had had all the work done.

I think they up-played Kudrow's face, though--blush too low on the cheeks to make them sag, uneven foundation on the chinline to emphasize the age, etc.

Joseph Thomson said...

Sparky Z:

If Jeff had spelt 'betoken', he wouldn't have used up all his letters, because one of those letters would have had to have been on the board already. In this scenario 'betoken' could earn as little as 13 points.

So it is possible that Jules overtook him with 'zit'.

I'm really, really, disappointed with myself that I spotted that.

keyser soze said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keyser soze said...

To everyone that commented to my earlier post, I really appreciate your insight. And I actually agree with you. It's just that I used to teach college students about representations of gender, and I always get a large number of students who say (and this extends to other stereotypes), "It's funny, so it can't be offensive." And as much as I've tried, many students do not budge on their preconceived notions.

But I certainly don't like the idea of censorship, and I don't prescribe to the notion that entertainment should be moralistic or provide answers... I just wish there weren't SO MANY Mars vs. Venus jokes (as SavedbytheTube called them) in one episode. When every character is stereotyping another character, it's just disappointing, as much as I like the characters.

Though I do agree, Andy winning the competition was hysterical.

(Thank you all for your responses!)

Matt S said...

not that anyone's reading this...but yes by far and away the best episode to date.

there were so many good throw away one liners throughout the entire ep---if it can keep up this kind of pace week in week out (which is haard) i think this show will only grow in stature---meaning it will go from being "that Courtney Cox show" to "that i can't believe its actually quite good Courtney Cox show"

Loved when the ex husband says to Foley---if i got mad everytime someone talked down to me i'd never get anything done! he is developing into a very good supporting character---he's always been quite good in his few scenes--but he's starting to actually develop dimensions beyond the one note persona they set up in the pilot---come to think of it all the characers are! That's amazing considering how bad and generic (i thought) Christa Miller and Busy Phillips were in episode 1 quite honestly.