Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cougar Town, "When A Kid Goes Bad": Honeytoes and the cornhuskers

A quick, blizzard-belated review of last night's "Cougar Town" coming up just as soon as I wow you with math skills while I stab you to death...

Another funny, sloppy, weird, entertaining episode of "Cougar Town." I can't decide if the rambling nature of each episode is just a result of Bill Lawrence, Kevin Biegel and company deciding they'd rather pack in more jokes, narrative steadiness be damned, or if they're deliberately trying to make the show seem as chaotic as Jules' life, but it's really working for me. It's like everyone's involved in multiple stories at once, as opposed to off in their own sphere. Ellie, for instance, is pushing Andy at work (and then being unhappy with him about the Laurie thing), but she's also coming down hard on Grayson about his Christmas lights(*). Bobby's hooked into Andy's story (and teaching him the Confidence Dance) at the same time he and Jules are being a sneaky team to deal with Travis's need to be a teenager who does stupid stuff sometimes. And we can have lots of weird, TMI digressions about Andy's foot fetish, Grayson's hatred of manscaping and Bobby and Grayson being horrified to learn about the hair(s) growing out of Jules' c-section scar. And Laurie's relationship with Smith continues to be a great showcase for Busy Phillips, who keeps finding weird (and at times touching) new layers to Laurie.

(*) And the Christmas lights on Valentine's day was a really sweet, pretty moment, and reminded me oddly of JD running around with sparklers after Turk proposed to Carla.

Ratings haven't been great lately, at least compared to how "Modern Family" does right before it. ABC's already renewed it for next year, so that's not a big concern at the moment, but after a couple of people on Twitter asked me today if the show would do better with a different name, I wonder if they might be right. Lawrence says that the title helped get the show picked up in the first place because it was an attention-getter, but it's also a big turn-off to people who don't watch the show, and/or those who sampled it early when the title was much more apt than it is now. There's not a ton of precedent for a show retitling itself mid-stream, but as James Poniewozik pointed out, Ellen DeGeneres' ABC sitcom did start as "These Friends of Mine" before becoming "Ellen." So it can be done.

So the question is, should they try? And, if so, what might be more apt for what "Cougar Town" has turned itself into?

And what did everybody else think?

43 comments:

Andy L said...

Actually, "These Friends of Mine" would be a pretty good title... Maybe "Extended Family"? Or would that be too weird after "Modern Family"?

How awesome is Ian Gomez? I remember really liking him when he was a recurring character on "The Drew Carey Show," but he has taken things to a new level of awesome on CT. There have been plenty of filterless characters on TV, but none have had the boyish enthusiasm Gomez brings to Andy, or the simple contentment and comfort he has.

Very glad that Barb has been effectively cut out in recent weeks. She was a part of the early version of the show, and it has evolved into a series she just doesn't belong on.

PS said...

Yea, I've been saying that two of the most apt names for the show would have been Modern Family or Community. Unfortunately those are both taken.

-Paul Soper (@paul_soper)
www.not-so-pop.tumblr.com

Marc said...

I hear what you are saying but people are just conjecturing that the name is whats turning people off. Who knows why anyone doesnt watch a show.I think there is enough good buzz on it. Go to any media site where a review is posted and plenty of people like it. Its clearly not as a big a hit as MF but somtimes shows take time to find themselves and audience. Castle finally is turning into a hit. Its had 25 eps so far. CT had aired only 15 and it airs againts the biggest hit in the land and another big hit Criminal Minds. Yes MF is holding on much better against those 2 shows, but thats the difference sometimes with shows that click faster. Remember the trajectory of THE OFFICE. first 6 eps in 05 were horrdily rated. In the fall MNIE was its lead in and that show premiered huge and stayed there. OFFICE was losing a huge (bigger than CT) chunk of its lead in for at least the first half year and then it started to retain more. Cut to a season and a half later and that became the bigger hit. Maybe CT will take off in Summer reruns. Who knows. Creatively its definitely rocking now. Plus a 2.8 againts AI is something ABC will happily take for now.

Stephanie said...

I am inclined to think they should try. I know I've been trying to sell it to my mom, but she saw the first episode and was turned off the "cougar" idea. I keep pushing that it's not about that anymore, but because of the name, it's a hard sell.

LA said...

I don't have a catchy title, but if they actually did retitle it, it would be great if they used a Tom Petty/Heartbreakers song or album title.

Cougar Town has been hitting it out of the park the last several episodes. Between redirecting the focus from being a Courteney Cox vehicle to a strong ensemble and finding the chemistry between the various characters, it's the perfect complement to Modern Family.

I love Grayson even more for his refusal to manscape. Men were meant to be hairy.

Hatfield said...

Men everywhere thank you, LA.

So, I'm guessing by the tone of recent reviews that I should come back after not caring for the first two all that much? Or is it the combined effect of more funny and time spent getting to know the characters that's making it click so well for you all right now?

LA said...

Hatfield,

First off, you're welcome!

Secondly, I think that many specific tweaks have been made and CT is better for it. The show started with a strong focus on Cox and her story as a 40-something divorcee looking for love and sex with the rest of the cast supporting her.

Now, it's an ensemble piece about the interpersonal relationships between all the characters. The other actors (and writers) have found their voices, and the characters have really been fleshed out. Cox isn't the sole focus. The chemistry between the ex-husband, the hunky neighbor, and Ian Gomez is spectacular. I'd give it another shot, Cougar Town has evolved quite a bit since it first started.

Q Ball said...

How about "American Girl" or "Free Girl Now." Those were the best I could come up with from Tom Petty Song titles. I think BL should change the name of the show, but I doubt he will.

srpad said...

Another winner. This show went from a second stringer to Modern Family to almost its equal.

I found it interesting that this week they made a point to mention that Andy is Hispanic twice. I found it surprising because to be honest it never occurred to me that he was. It made me wonder if they felt to need to mention it because they received complaints that a show set in Florida had no obviously Hispanic characters.

dez said...

Very glad that Barb has been effectively cut out in recent weeks.

I like her little appearances. Anything to get Carolyn Hennessey away from the suckfest that is "General Hospital."

It's too bad they can't get rid of Jules, as she is my least favorite character on the show. If they can go back to making her much less annoying, that would help. Otherwise, I'm in it for Ian Gomez's Andy and his silly interactions with the rest of the cast.

cadfile said...

I must have laughed for about 5 minutes after the Andy Honeytoes exchange with Laurie.

Ellie saying she was sorry for pulling up Grayson's bush but then saying it would be easier if he did what she told him - was great too.

This show has grown on me since the inclusion of the rest of the cast with their own quirks.

Scotty Westside said...

I hope they retitle the show for season 2, because I like it and I would never, ever admit watching it.

BigTed said...

I've been liking this show more and more with every episode (as opposed to "Modern Family," which I've been liking less). The characters have become less caricatured and surprisingly likeable (more so than any of the gang in "Scrubs"), and their odd friendships are just real enough to be believable. Like many people, I disliked the early "cougar" episodes (and especially the main character), but this weird community of mostly 40ish people has really grown on me.

As for "Ellen," it didn't actually change that much from "These Friends of Mine" -- they just gave her a new set of friends. (And a job in a coffeehouse/ bookstore, which I guess seemed hip at the time.) If I'm remembering it correctly, it was just the last few episodes, centered around her coming out, that made it unique and interesting.

Billiam said...

I think "Cougar Town" is actually my favorite new show of the season. I love the quirkiness and generally enjoy it more than "Modern Family." I think it's mainly because of Bill Lawrence (Scrubs used to be my fav show before "The Office" premiered) and the other writers, but the entire cast is pretty darn likable: again in a quirky way. Basically, these are people I would definitely be friends with (with the exception of Ellie, who I still love as a TV character) and would introduce to people as "my goofy friends."

Katrine said...

I really hated this show at first but I quite like it now. I definitely think moving it away from Jules dating and using younger guys and towards the little fauxmily circle has helped a lot.

Mike said...

I was reluctant to watch this or Modern Family as the season started - neither seemed that interesting to me. I saw a couple of the early episodes of each with my wife, neither of us really liking them. Lately though, I'm enjoying Cougar Town quite a lot. The balance of absurd silliness and sweetness has worked for me recently. Much more than Modern Family.

Andy L said...

Katrine wins! "Faux-mily Circle" it is!

blinky said...

I find this show very stilted. All the actors sound like they are reading lines. Nobody is believable as a real world human.
I seem to remember Ms Cox as being a better actor in the past....

Stef said...

Any time Ian Gomez shows up on the screen, I smile. He's amazing, and the bromance among all of the guys, including Travis, has really helped make this show a winner.

Dawn said...

I think a name change couldn't hurt. I certainly would never have watched the show had I not read good reviews here and other places. And the ditching or at least lessening of the "cougar" concept after the first few episodes has really hooked me. It's now tied for my favorite sitcom with Community.

As others have noted, I think the reason I've been enjoying it so much is the relationships, and the interactions of the cast as a whole. All I really know is that it has that mix of laugh out loud moments together with sweet and silly times all put together in sometimes unexpected ways.

I think the closing act of this episode was a good example of that -- there were several possible cliched ways to deal with the Laurie/Smith's dad situation, but the double-prank (fun for all!) was not what I expected, in a good way.

Karen said...

"Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place" changed its name mid-stream to "Two Guys and a Girl." Maybe "Cougar Town" could retain the "Town" in a nod to the same kind of continuity, and come up with something new.

This was one of the best episodes yet, I thought. The show really does just keep getting sharper and sharper. Even Cox has mellowed a bit.

Alison D said...

I have yet to see this show because I cannot convince my partner to watch anything called Cougar Town - despite the fact that we are both big Busy Phillips fans. To be honest, even given Phillips and the reviews, I can't quite bring myself to say "let's watch it" either. Most people who don't read reviews go by title and description, and this title screams unfunny jokes about old chicks based on tired stereotypes. Like a Two and a Half Men for women.

JS said...

They should just call the show Three and a Half Men

Anonymous said...

The New Adventures of Courtney Cox?

Well, since Scrubs has ended (sorta), Cougartown might get a bump from those migrating from Scrubs to Cougartown next year, which basically has the same Bill Lawrence kind of humor with a different setting.

Jorge said...

I too find myself holding back from recommending this show my friends because of the title. (I caught a lot of flak for recommending BSG but found redemption when a few of them picked it up and thanked me )
Although this isn’t a new title, but rather an idea: How about the writers name the show after the street they live on (I don’t believe we know the street name). Most of them live in the cul ‘d sac at the end of the street. Heck, even Bobby’s boat took up residence in Julles’ drive for an episode.

Plus maybe Bill Lawrence and crew can incorporate a Tom Petty song as the street name.

Anonymous said...

word of mouth for this show is hard because I would never turn to one of my friends and say "This funny thing happened on Cougar Town last night ..." Will never happen. and I happen to really like the show. there are some nights I laugh more at CT than at Modern Family. But it will never happen.

ghoti said...

"It's a Living" became "Making a Living"!

hench said...

Schlubs?

Nick said...

Anonymous, I feel the same way. Hard to tell most that I really like a show called Cougar Town. I don't expect a title change but, between word of mouth and the fact that it no longer fits the show at all, they really should.

Samuel said...

It's weird, at the beginning of the season Modern Family seemed like the more adventurous show and CT like a run-of-the-mill star vehicle. These days MF has settled into a mockumentary update on pretty tired sitcom tropes, and CT has developed a comic tone i don't think really exists anywhere else on network tv. While cracking up at Andy's extended fetish riff the other night I found myself thinking "A show called Cougar Town is becoming appointment TV for me? Yikes." I wish they would change the name so I could admit how much I like this show.

Q Ball said...

Looks like a lot of you are having the same problem I had with "Buffy." I resisted the show for so long because of the name, but once I saw Firefly I realized that Joss Whedon knew how to run a show. Now Buffy is one of my all time favorites, but because of its silly name it never had the mass appeal it deserved.

Mark said...

I have to admit that I am shocked and dumbfounded by all the resistance to watching or talking about a show because it has a stupid name. WHO CARES?

Are people really foolish enough to avoid this show merely because it is called "Cougar Town?"

If I like a show, I like it because it is well-written and entertaining, not because I like the name of it. I didn't even give the name a thought when I watched it because it came on after Modern Family. I also didn't give the name a thought as to whether I like the show or not.

And if people ridicule me because I like the show when they haven't even watched it, then they are the fools not me.

Maybe I am naive, but I would hope that good buzz and great writing would overshadow the name of the show and would compel people to watch it.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the naming of the show. I wouldn't have watched it with that title if not for my wife insisting we give it a try. I didn't like it early on. Older women preying on young boys is not my idea of comedy. Porn, yes. Comedy, no. However, I'm glad we stuck with it and I think it's become a very good show. As for a title, I'll vote for Faux-mily circle as well.

Anonymous said...

The show has calmed down a lot since its early episodes. Gone is the awful "we're desparate 40 year old ladies" schtick and constant shrieking by Courtney Cox (although to be fair, she still can get a little shrieky from time to time). Only because friends kept urging me to watch did I circle back to it. ABC needs to find an ad campaign that will clue people in to the show it's morphed into.

Anonymous said...

Mark, it's not that people are "foolish" for being uninterested in a show called Cougar Town. With the name and the general description -i.e., it's a show where the main character is this 40 something divorced woman living in Cougar Town and she's raising a kid and looking for love - people tend to fill in the blanks, for better or worse. And, given how the show started out, it kind of was the sort of show that the name Cougar Town implied. Plus, once people have their schedules of what they are and aren't watching, it's hard to bring them back.

Johanna said...

A name change could only help at this point. The core audience isn't going to flee just because it's no longer called "Cougar Town," and it would be a chance to grab new viewers who find the CT title off-putting.

I know it's bland and uninteresting but, honestly, if I were Bill Lawrence I'd rename it "Courteney." If you go with something too avant garde, you risk confusing people even more. The name "Courteney," while hardly electrifying, would help the "Cougar Town" loyals cross over without missing a beat (they'd know where to find their show) and would coax in new viewers who were turned off by the original title.

Yes, the show has become a nice ensemble comedy, but CCA is still going to be the main draw for new viewers -- i.e., she's what gets them in the door. And having a slightly misleading title would be better than an awful one. (As a similar example, "Will & Grace" was never hurt by being incorrectly titled. Let's face it, we all know it should have been called "Jack & Karen.")

Hmmm said...

I'd renamed it "Cox"

Owen said...

I've recommended the show to two female friends (at seperate times). Each one mentioned that they don't like the term "cougar" as a reason why they have resistance to watching the show. If it matters, one friend is in her 30s and one is in her 40s. I think it's like the iPad: the name gives some women a first impression of "ick". And I can't blame them -- there's a lot of horrible tv out there, and if I didn't know that it was by the Scrubs creator, I'd assume that it was a sleazy show too.

To understand what they think, do this thought experiment: Imagine a show named Cougar Town on the Spike TV channel. You should have just gotten a chill up your spine.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this show a lot. Possible titles:
Cul-de-sac Crew
Crazy Town
Sagging Sexy

Hatfield said...

Thanks for the advice, LA!

Doug said...

I guess I'm in the minority.

I'm finding all the chaos difficult to follow and very weird. It takes me out of the show.

Anonymous said...

I really like this show. And, yes, I believe they would definitely be well served to change the name. To what I don't know but, most anything would be better. I try and tell friends it is nothing like the current title implies but, they just nod knowingly.

reneeryman said...

i hate this show, cougar town is a rude demeaning name, I love the actors but the characters are juvenile and Busy Philips is gorgeous but her character is so bottom of the barrel it is hard to watch.
I would rename it desperate dudes & dolls....