Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cougar Town, "What Are You Doin' In My Life": Attack of the puke puncher

A review of last night's "Cougar Town" coming up just as soon as I call Portia...

The show had been on such a good streak for so long (again, dating back to the re-conception of the series as an ensemble comedy about an unlikely family, rather than a story about Courteney Cox dating hot young dudes) that they were bound to roll snake eyes sooner or later.

I've been in the tank for Beverly D'Angelo going back at least to "National Lampoon's Vacation," but Laurie's mom was such a broad and obvious cartoon villain that that story didn't work. Which is surprising, given that both Laurie and, especially, Bobby are written with a lot of nuance and heart even as they're shown to be dumb and trashy.

Bobby's usual hillbilly logic, in fact, was the one part of the episode I really liked. Brian Van Holt and the writers have so nailed the unapologetic stupidity and weirdness of the character that he never fails to make me laugh, most notably here when describing his goal of making himself sick in every country in the globe. ("Mexico was easy!")

The Barb story was also way over-the-top and off-tone. This isn't a show that usually messes around with pop culture parodies, so turning Barb into Norma Desmond from "Sunset Boulevard" didn't work.

I like the actors, and I like the small bits of interaction among them (Grayson happily yanking Jules' waxing strip, Andy being so excited that Bobby and Ellie's feud is over), but they've definitely had better weeks than this one.

What did everybody else think?


Kelly said...

Definitely the first "meh" episode for me in a long time.

The highlight was definitely (as you so aptly described it Alan) Grayson happily yanking off the strip of wax, I giggled forever at that.

LA said...

You pretty much nailed it. I had read on my DVR listing something like "Travis helps Barb after her cosmetic procedure," and was excited for the potential. I was so disappointed that it fell so completely and utterly flat.

Another problem last night for me was Jules edging back into Monica Geller territory. It's a slippery slope, but Bill Lawrence and company must remain vigilant to ensure this never, ever happens.

Yeah, it was a letdown.

kalman said...

I've given this show a fair hearing. Last night was the last time I'll watch it.The bald guy dancing around at the end clinched it. Way too predictable. Way too broad. There is nothing exceptional about this bland, According-To-Jim level sitcom.

George said...

This episode was a mess of timing; it just felt so rushed and everything had to be compacted to fit into 20 minutes. Maybe they should have stretched Laurie's mothers arc over two episodes. For me, it took a wrong turn in that climactic scene, which transitioned from fight to heartfelt Jules-Laurie reunion in about 10 seconds.

Again, it was left up to the guys for the funnys this week and they mostly delivered; the return of new and improved penny-can was a highlight and Bobby and Andy are always hilarious, especially Andy this week, that guy's just OTT all the time, I hope he doesn't become too grating in future.

Finally, shame on you, Bill Lawrence. You spend a good 4 years mocking Grey's Anatomy on Scrubs, but then you have both Grayson and Andy declare their love for it, abc has gotten to you hard.

Grayson Anatomy was a funny nickname though.

Kensington said...

The thing is, if they've really re-conceptualized this, and it's no longer focused on Courtney Cox dating young studs, shouldn't they change the name?

Because "Cougar Town" still sounds likea show about older women dating younger studs.

It's confusing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Kensington, we've talked about changing the name in some of the more recent episode posts. I think it'd definitely be a smart idea, even if the new name is something like "Courteney!" (Since Cox is still the biggest drawing card.)

Eric said...

The show is teetering dangerously close to becoming formulaic. That was my biggest problem with Scrubs after a couple of seasons. The structure and punch line set ups became predictable to the point of being tedious. Cougar Town is obviously from the same mold—a plus for some fans, but for me it comes with all the comedic baggage of Scrubs. It immediately makes a new premise feel dated and worn. I wince every time they do the punchline-music-scene transition.

As is, I'm primarily watching for the men of "Cougar Town" and find their relationships and interactions both more funny and interesting than anything going on with the Three Witches.

Speaking of the Cougar Men, what was going on with Travis and Barbara? None of that made any sense; just having the two of them interacting seemed odd and forced.

And, not to be petty, but did anyone else notice something weird happening with Courteney Cox's mouth in last night's episode? Can't tell if it's from too much botox, not enough, lip injections or some other cause. Christa Miller's already gone overboard, Courteney. Use with discretion.

Anonymous said...

I think they need to be careful in writing the funny for the men too often - not only will it become an ensemble but the star of the show maybe lost in the background - like what happened on the old "Family Matters" show when Urkle took over.

This epi had some good spots and Andy at the end was sooo funny.

Cari said...

I like the show enough that I forgive some dud plot lines and plot holes, but I'm really starting to get annoyed about Stan (Ellie and Andy's baby). This is especially glaring when Ellie and Andy do things like pull a prank on Bobby in the middle of the night, presumably leaving Stan alone?

Or has Stan been written out of the show entirely now and I just missed it?

Cree said...

I enjoyed the episode. Sure, it wasn't the best they've had, but I genuinely enjoy spending time with these people each and every week even when a few bits fall flat.

I think that they need to find a way to bring Dan Byrd's Travis into the fold a little better.
But let me say, every single time Bobby comes on screen I sit up excitedly to see what's going to come out of the fool-man's mouth.

Anonymous said...

Definitely not one of their better episodes.

Also - is it just me, or does anyone else find it very strange that the show hasn't mentioned Andy and Ellie's kid in months?

Who is taking care of their NEWBORN BABY when all this drama / fun is going on?

Am I missing something here? Was their an episode where they decided to give the baby away or something?

ADW said...

The small bits were very funny . Bobby - a character who was thinly drawn in the beginning - now nails some quirky humor. Happy Andy about the end of the feud and something about sexual wrestling?, also funny.

Barb? Not so much.

I once went to a large corporation management meeting and one of the district manager's had that "Red Masque of Death" face. I thought it was a medical treatment for disease. No, it was a brand new chemical peel and she had no embarrassment at all over it. And she was about as smart as box of rocks. Someone should put that in a TV show. Though, probably, no one would think it could be real.

Still, the small moments made me glad I saw it.

Scott said...

Pretty sure he said poop his pants, not make himself sick. I can see why you went PG there Alan.

srpad said...

About the name change, I think the show is stuck. If they change the name and advertise it heavily all you will hear is "COUGAR TOWN is now AWESOME SHOW! COUGAR TOWN is now AWESOME SHOW! COUGAR TOWN COUGAR TOWN COUGAR TOWN!" What are people going to think? Either "Awesome Show? Isn't that the show about Cougars?" Or worse, if they haven't been paying attention, "Awesome Show? Whatever happens to Cougar Town, that show was pretty good."

The end result being they get all the disadvantages of the old name and lose the advantages of being an established modest hit.
For good or ill, I think they are stuck with the Cougar-isness

Anonymous said...

unwatchable episode

Stef said...

I really like the show. But Alan, the picture you chose this week just points out one of the main problems - it's sometimes really difficult to watch a show where only one female lead - Busy Phillips - seem to have real facial expressions. It's a terrible showcase for what surgery and treatments do to women, while the men (seem) to be of the same age and just have interesting, good-looking, lived-in faces. It's very frustrating.

DeeTV said...

I can't get through a whole episode of this show. I've tried several times, but it just stinks (to me).

Courtney Cox and Christa Miller play the same role, no matter what show they're in. And, I can take either of them anymore.

My last post of the subject/show. I promise :)

Anonymous said...

What the hell happened to Beverly D'Angelo?!? When I saw the previews and her first scene I thought it was Stifler's Mom! YIKES!

Zach, yes that is my real name. said...

I liked this ep just fine! A collection of interesting, interlocking, sweet, supremely absurdist characters doing goofy dumbass things, for very plausible human reasons. Whats not to love?? Good consistent characterization, constant modest progress in relationships. Tops 99% of the other sitcoms out there on all counts -- while staying *way* lighter, less annoying and less self-impressed than Scrubs ever was.

I think it comes down to either you find the people charming or you dont, same as any 30 minute entertainment.

Lord god people what is up with all the hate, especially on Christa Miller's face? Hello, she's a fortysomething suburban mom character, I would venture to guess she's *supposed* to look Botoxy.

Cougar Town still makes my week every week, I will be for sure scooping up Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD and handing them out to everyone I know.

Jack said...

Am I too late to the party?

The scene with the CD of the dog barking Jingle Bells was one of those rare instances I actually laughed out loud and hard at a network sitcom (and I watch four on ABC, four on NBC, and HIMYM). Just brilliant.

Eric, Courteney's lips have been weird and distracting since episode one.

Christa Miller doesn't look that bad to me really. Looking back on her over the past few years I can't see any obvious signs of work having been done. She can definitely lift her eyebrows alright too, which would be an obvious sign.