In many ways Cougar Town appears to be Friends 20 or more years later. It’s not just the fact that the former Friends star Courtney Cox heads the call sheet on the new situation comedy. There are a ton of other elements that appear to tie the shows together. Like the old NBC show, the core of this show is a tight group of friends. They have a lot of the same kinds of adventures and conversations as the old gang used to have. The big difference here is that the adventures and the talk come from an older, if not more mature, perspective. They still talk a little too much about sex, except now the characters are in their 40’s, so the tone of that conversation has changed up a bit. Call it a 40’s version of Friends meets Sex In The City.
I actually hadn’t been familiar with the term Cougar until recently. I listen to Minnesota sports radio so that I can keep up with the Vikings even here in Tampa. One of the hosts a year or so ago got in trouble at a club event when he referred to the ladies in the audience as Cougars. He later did a show segment where he was trying to find out from listeners if the term was an insult or not. The audience was divided, so I still don’t know if most women in this position consider the term derogatory or not. It basically refers to a woman at least in her 40’s who dates men younger than herself.
Jules Cobb (Cox) is a recently divorced mother of an 18 year old son, Travis (Byrd). She’s in her early 40’s and runs her own real estate company. While she’s been very successful in her career, she is not quite ready to return to the world of dating. It doesn’t help that her neighbor and local bar owner Grayson (Hopkins) is a man pretty much in her same situation, except for a double standard that doesn’t look quite so badly on the fact that he has an almost endless parade of very young women staying the night at his home. Jules is attracted to him as well. Her closest friend is Laurie (Phillips) who is her young assistant and confidant. Laurie’s pretty much what we’d call a slut, but appears to have a heart of gold, likely bought on discount. She has all of the dumb-blonde trappings that you can cram into a single character. She is pretty stupid, self-centered, sleeps around, shops all the time, and wears inappropriate clothing. She’s loyal to Jules and is her cheerleader, for the most part, in getting her back into action. Ellie (Miller) is her married neighbor and also close friend. She tells Ellie everything, and the two have been friends for decades. Ellie’s a bit bummed that Jules is now divorced, because they no longer can do the couple things they used to do. She’s also a bit insecure that Jules new single lifestyle will take her away. Needless to say, Ellie and Laurie have a rather catty intolerance of each other. Ellie’s husband is Andy (Gomez), a balding Hispanic guy who still can’t believe he has a hot wife even though he has to negotiate in order to actually have sex with her. Somehow, the two have produced an infant son. There is this character called Barb (Hennesy), who is a much older character who appears to often pop up from nowhere to deliver some sarcastic remark. Finally, there is Bobby (Van Holt) who is Jules’ ex-husband. He’s a burned-out golf pro who acts pretty much like a hick. He lives on a small boat parked in a lot. They all like to drink a bit too much.
What appears to make this show work is that the characters are much more likable than I ever found the cast of Friends. Perhaps the age issues here have brought it all down to earth more. I’m not sure. Cox is far less of a snitty you know what here. The character certainly isn’t going to win any awards for Mom of the Year, but she’s believable. I’m pretty impressed at how unattractive Cox allows herself to be here. Brian Van Holt literally steals the show with his redneck Bobby Cobb. Van Holt manages to do the hick humor without ever overselling the routine. He’s the kind of guy you’d love to hang out with, as long as you never had to depend on him for anything important. Christa Miller is the biggest surprise here. She doesn’t look anything like she did as Kate on The Drew Carey Show. Of course, neither does the newly-slimmed-down Carey. But Miller has learned to act far more subtly, making this a very compelling character and performance for a situation comedy. Who knew that a woman could look and act better in her 40’s? It doesn’t hurt her that she’s married to show co-creator Bill Lawrence.
For a first season, I found Cougar Town more entertaining than either Friends or Sex In The City ever were. It’s worth a look here, for sure.
Each episode is presented in an impressive 1.78:1 widescreen format. This looks great. Colors are dynamic, and black levels are pretty solid. The show is quite bright, reflecting the Florida atmosphere. I wish that studios would cut down on the number of episodes per disc. There is some mild compression artifact.
Even though the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not ambitious or aggressive at all, it is more than enough to appreciate the show. Dialog pretty much dominates this mix, meaning it all lives in the center speaker with the rest in your front mains.
All of these extras are found on Disc 3:
Saber-Tooth Town: (2:00) This is a spoof spin-off from a broadcast of the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show. It features Cloris Leachman and Shirley Jones trying to nab young men.
Music Video: (1:04) My Sexuality from the Grayson character.
Ask Barb: 9 short features with a play-all option. These are mostly mock tips from the Barb character.
Stroking It With Bobby Cobb: Four short features with a play-all option are the same kind of foolishness, but this time from Bobby.
Deleted Scenes From Select Episodes
Cougar Town is set in familiar environs for me. The show is located near Sarasota Florida, just about 40 minutes to the south of us here in Tampa. The Florida motif lends quite a hand in the character of the show from time to time. Like most sit-coms of this type, the show leans way too heavily on the sexual-innuendo style of comedy. The unfortunate part about that here is that the show is actually quite good when it doesn’t. The characters are all pretty interesting, and there is a nice dynamic that forms quickly, making this gathering of friends far more accessible than the earlier group ever was. The situations are usually much simpler and often more entertaining. The show has some very real potential if the runners can figure out that they don’t really need to dip into the sex well as often as they do. Maybe someone on the show could get them to understand. “Good luck with that.”