Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cougar Town, "Letting You Go": Sail away

A quick review of last night's "Cougar Town" (which, if I haven't said it enough lately, has been vastly improved since the start of the season) coming up just as soon as I use my mouth vacuum...

I haven't written much about "Cougar Town" lately, but it hasn't been for lack of watching/enjoying. It's just that between vacation time and the crunch of Wednesday programming, something's had to give, and this show has settled into a nice, strange groove that doesn't always leave me a ton to say by the time I have time to say it.

But "Letting You Go" was a very strong episode on several levels. It kept up the goofy enthusiasm of Jules and her cul de sac crew to find ways to fight boredom by trying to start new rituals, first with morning drinking, then with the late night Enya parties. The entire cast is really game for this stuff, and here I want to single out Josh Hopkins, who came across as a total stiff in nearly everything I've seen him do in the past, and is completely loose and fun and fearless here as Grayson.

The episode also did a good job of pushing the Jules/Travis relationship back to the forefront, after letting it slip away at various points this season. Jules is, on many levels, a sad character (again: morning drinking), and I like that the writers have found ways to acknowledge that quality, and the clinginess of her relationship with Travis, without undermining the humor of it all. And it also makes sense that Travis's impending departure (from her home, if not the show) would finally send Jules towards Grayson.

One question: is the mention of Winston University (home of the med school affiliated with Sacred Heart on "Scrubs") the first sign that "Cougar Town" and "Scrubs" are part of the same fictional universe, even with Christa Miller playing different roles in each? Or was there an earlier one I've forgotten?

(And second question: funnier Bill Lawrence show dog? Rowdy or Dog Travis?)

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Jordan and Ellie are really the same person. She leads a double life with two different families.

Now that would be a good crossover!

dez said...

Dog Travis ("It could be a meatball!")

Kaitlin said...

In an earlier episode Jules and Bobby are watching an episode of scrubs when Travis comes home. I think it was one with JD and Turk dancing.

Marc said...

always have loved Ian Gomez, but are you as happy as I am that hes found a show and chacarter that fully suits his wonderful comic charms?

This ensemble is perfect on multiple levels. They just look like they're really having fun. You just want to be a part of it.

LA said...

I pretty much died laughing when Travis ended up at Winston U. Great episode, and like you said, it's terrific to see Josh Hopkins break out of his boring (yet very pretty) shell.

Unknown said...

Gomez is a great, lovable guy, and I get and enjoy the story dynamic of "Andy tries to be a regular guy, Ellie overeacts and punishes him, Andy sulks, Ellie eventually budges just a little bit and Andy laps it up." Which they've done a bunch.

BUT Ellie just seems like TOO MUCH of a b*tch, there's too much of a power imbalance. Would be good to see why Ellie needs and loves Andy, to see her reliant on him.

Got close with the ep where he stays at Bobby's place, but then they quickly wrapped up the resolution off screen, so it still looked like Ellie wins every fight, every thing. What's Andy in the marriage for? To oogle a hot wife who won't have sex with him?

Remy Lane said...

Such a great episode. It never fails to make me happy and get a few giggles out, but this week really raised the bar. Hilarious and touching.

And I have to give the edge to Dog Travis. As much as I love Rowdy, Travis is too cool - Rowdy could never get to second base with Kiley AND fetch golf balls. Win, Dog Travis.

Jim said...

Dog Travis, no question.

Jordan and Ellie are really the same person. She leads a double life with two different families.

Feuding twin sisters.(Is it just me, or is Christa Miller's face starting to move again? She looked great last night)

I like that they treat the characters' drinking as a weakness, but not one that requires Very Special Episodes. And, if we're gonna do a crossover, how great would Bob Kelso fit in to a world of morning drinking dysfunction.

Oaktown Girl said...

This episode did leave me wondering if Grayson is going to have morning after regrets about the timing of his first "time" with Jules. He knows she likes him, but he's also got to know she's with him at this particular moment in large part as a coping mechanism to deal with the reality of her son moving out soon.

Travis the dog totally funnier than Rowdy. Rowdy was funny, but ultimately he was only a prop for the amusing quirkiness of Turk and Newby. But Travis is no prop. He's the real deal, and he completely owns whatever scene he's in.

And I also love Travis the dog's owner, Jules' ex, who's name I forget. You'd think that character would grow tiresome in a hurry, but he's so damn likable. And they give him just enough substance so that he's not completely 2-dimensional, so I guess he's got that working for him, too.

Kensington said...

It really was a lovely episode, and I'm now prepared to accept Cougar Town as a worthy successor to Scrubs in the category of quirky, idiosyncratic comedies created by Bill Lawrence.

The running gags about watching Travis sleep were especially delightful, particularly when they showed it had become a group activity for the women.

Alan, if you get a chance to interview Bill Lawrence at the end of the season, I hope you'll address the name problem, though. It's been said over and over, but it still really needs to happen.

Robin said...

I thought this episode's interactions between Jules and Travis, especially the sleep stalking, edged into creepy. But they wound up redeeming it by having Travis call Jules out on it. And by the end, I felt bad for her.

I second the Kelso crossover idea. That would be comedy gold.

chrisis said...

Just to clear something up: The safety school that Travis rejected actually was Winston University (I don't think it was mentioned in the dialogue but it was clearly readable on the envelope) while the college in Sarasota, 20 minutes from Gulfhaven, that looked like Winston University, actually wasn't Winston U. All the signs had been changed. It just used the same historic buildings at Culver Studios as was used for Winston U on Scrubs. And since it's semi established (but never mentioned on the show) that Sacred Heart was somewhere in Southern California it can't be the same.

Plus for previous Scrubs things in Cougar Town: In the same episode where they watched Scrubs on TV, Andy also held a Coffe Bucks cup, the coffe shop that Dr. Kelso installed during I think season 5 of Scrubs.
(And yeah, I admit, I'm such a Scrubs nerd that I just typed that all out of my mind without it looking up. Don't judge me :))

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of your thoughts on the episode.

However, I know it's a comedy but I didn't find the morning drinking funny at all. I know take it with a grain of salt.
I know why it bothered me regardless I enjoyed the episode.

Paul Outlaw said...

Randall Winston (one of the producers of Bill Lawrence's Cougar Town, Scrubs and Spin City) is also the name of the NYC mayor played by Barry Bostwick on SC, who plays Smith's father on CT.

Dudleys Mom said... I want to single out Josh Hopkins, who came across as a total stiff in nearly everything I've seen him do in the past, and is completely loose and fun and fearless here as Grayson.

I am so with you on this comment. The last few years, it has felt like network execs were trying to shove him down our throats (look at the pretty actor!...uh, no thanks), and he became pretty much a showkiller for me. As soon as he showed up in Swingtown, I was out. But I am seeing his appeal for the first time here. In fact, I think he balances out Courteney Cox's occasional shrillness, and the show is better for it.

Tyroc said...

I think the show is fine enough, but it doesn't seem like any of these characters are going anywhere. They drink a lot, they sleep with one another, Ellie is mean... Scrubs was a coming of age story (granted, one that was on too long) but not sure there's been any growth or change in the characters since the early episodes.

All the episodes are starting to feel the same.

Also, we knew Travis would remain on the show so there was no jeopardy in the story.

Billiam said...

I'm really curious what Lawrence has planned for the Jules/Grayson pairing, since he did such a good job of being nonconventional with JD and Elliot in the first 3 seasons of Scrubs. And just like with Elliot and JD's first hookup, it happened at the end of an episode which had almost no specific lead-up to it.
I'm not sure that the Scrubs-style voiceovers at the end are really necessary though, since it doesn't work as well to have a character monologue as it does to have a narrator.

Anonymous said...

I love the weirdness of this show, and the wholehearted, non-ironic way in which the cast embraces it. Still hate the name, but the dancing in jeans to Enya and anything Bobby were great. I think the quirkiness also offsets Courtney Cox's screechiness; the first few episodes, I couldn't get past Jules' unlikability. She's a lot easier to watch now that she's a slightly pathetic weirdo.

Unknown said...

This show's been on a roll of late. To be honest, much as I like Modern Family, I think Cougar Town episodes of late have been as good, if not better. They've really found a nice rhythm to build on, but they've got some sticky roads to work out.

They can't have Travis there all the time. It would become somewhat ... pointless. And yet, losing Travis would really lose a lot of what makes Jules interesting. Grayson balances Jules out in a relationship way - Travis (and the actor) balances Cox/Jules out in a more emotional tone.

Saving Grayson/Jules for the end of the season was expected, and once they started her drive home, you knew it was coming. I loved the little touch where she accused him of not warning her, and he just sucked it in, when he had tried. That said ... what's next? Morning after regret would be a very likely scenario ... for both parties, and yet ... building towards this all season long and then doubling back so quick ... going to be interesting how it plays. I guess they could be ballsy and keep them in a relationship ... a lot of interesting roads.

Christa Miller and Busy Phillips are great, but one truth still holds for this show - the guys, despite given minimal roles (relative to the women) are far more intriguing. I'm not sure how they can ever balance that. It's a credit, in some respects, to Bill Lawrence and Co. for making them that intriguing.

Btw, to the above, I highly doubt the show's name changes unless they can come up with a dynamic reason for it. Just a bad road to go down. I can live with it ... it is what it is, and I don't think it really fazes me anymore.

Unknown said...

btw, great needtobreathe song at the end. I'm guessing it was Christa again.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Travis is leaving the show? I assumed now that he is going to college only 20 minutes away he will stay on the show.

Unknown said...

I haven't heard ... does anyone know specifically? I'm assuming 20 minutes away means he'll be coming home quite a bit, and I knew a lot of kids who came home quite a bit when they went to a nearby college. That said, it's still going to be a tough balancing act to find what's realistic.

Ace said...

I'm so glad that I didn't give up on this show. When it started, it really did focus way too much on the "cougar" aspect. The show is much better when it focuses on this odd little family that the characters have created and as that gets stronger, so does the show. Just like Friends and HIMYM, the closer the cast got the more you love the show. The latter part of this season has given us some really great moments...Dog Travis and "gay trap" have probably been my favorite.

jcpdiesel21 said...

I really have grown to love this show. It's definitely on par with Modern Family as of late, and some of its comedic moments make me laugh even harder. The actors and writers have all gotten a nice handle on the characters and how to mix them well. I love how so many of the storylines are so bizarre, yet you can still relate to them in some way.

I assume that Dan Byrd will still be on the show next year. I don't know in what capacity, but since Travis chose the closer college, he'll probably be popping up often. It would be a shame to lose his (sometimes creepy) relationship with Jules so early.

I really don't see what this show has to gain by changing its name. People who aren't watching already probably aren't going to change their minds because the show is called something different. And the title works nicely beyond just referring to Jules as a cougar.

Katrine said...

Man, it shows how much "Chuck" screwed up season 3 pre-episode 14 that I got a LOT more emotional and misty-eyed watching this episode than the one where Chuck and Sarah got together.

Anyway, I am impressed at how much I like this show now, and how well it works. The only false note for me, as someone else said, is the Andy/Ellie relationship--it gives me a bad taste in my mouth because it think it crosses over from "funny" to "uncomfortable." It's the same feeling I had about Jules' initial cougarey exploits, where she's use all these younger men for sex and often not be upfront with them about her expectations or treat them like breathing dildoes and we were supposed to find that funny when really it was reprehensible. (It wasn't a gender commentary thing, it was a human thing: treating a person like that is disgusting no matter if they're a woman or a man.) But the show has since moved away from that, so maybe they'll make the Andy/Ellie relationship less unequal, too...

Erik said...

I gave up on this show after seven or eight episodes, and thought I should give it another chance if it really was as much impoved as you seem to think.

To my mind, and on the basis of this episode alone, it's really not. This episode was incredibly rushed (I think those three-second kisses were some of the longest scenes) and for me it neither had heart nor laughs. I can see that it makes more sense now, that the (Gilmore Girls-esque) concept is better, but for me the universe is still unattractive and the execution very mediocre. Didn't enjoy it at all.