Cast: Courtney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Phillips, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez, Brian Van Holt
Cougar Town is the hidden gem of the sitcom world. The main reason for this is probably the fact that its pitch sells itself short. The pilot sets up an amusing 20 minute episode, where Courtney Cox struggles with dating at 40. It is a pretty interesting character study (her character, Jules, is divorced, but feels uneasy dating at her age – worried about being branded a ‘cougar’), but you cannot help, but feeling that the joke will wear thin a few episodes into the series. However, the writers use this premise as a tool to introduce its audience to several wacky characters and five episodes in, it becomes a comedy about a group of people living in a cul-de-sac, rather than cougars preying on young men.
If the tone of this series strikes you as familiar, you can blame Bill Lawrence for that. He is co-creator here and also the brains behind hit comedy, Scrubs. Cougar Town goes for the same jokes that Scrubs goes for, giving us in-your-face jokes, amusing characters, but usually hitting us with some real emotion as the episode draws to a close. With this first season, there is a sense that it never quite reaches the bar that Scrubs has set and you wouldn’t be mad to suggest that Cougar Town is trying to cash in on Scrubs’ success. It even uses some of the actors from the show and re-uses their characters. Scott Foley shows up, playing the mid-season love interest that doesn’t quite work out. Bob Clendenin plays the creepy background character. Even Christa Miller pretty much copies and pastes the character of Jordan, although that is a hard thing to complain about, as she is one of the best things in this show. Another thing that makes Cougar Town slightly fall short, when trying to hit the mark, is the fact that there really aren’t enough characters just yet, to make the episodes feel as mad as Scrubs can get.
That is not to say the characters they do have are disappointing. Brian Van Holt is great, as Jules ex-husband who doesn’t take the hint that he shouldn’t be hanging around, Busy Phillips gets some of the best lines and Dan Byrd portrays the embarrassed teenager excellently. The writers dissect these characters, push them in every direction and squeeze some great jokes out of them. In fact, the weak part of the cast is probably Courtney Cox, the lead, who can sometimes swing a little too far on the annoying side to really make you emphasise with some of her character’s weirder habits. Also, her on-off relationship with Grayson feels like a typical storyline for your typical 20 minute sitcom (see Friends, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother… the list is endless).
All of these petty flaws with the season though are swept under the rug, when the episodes get to full speed. Sure, it kind of feels like Scrubs, but not quite, but if you liked Scrubs, you will like this. It has the same sense of comedy, great characters and that little touch of emotion that keeps the season together. It really is a shame that this doesn’t seem to have reached the dizzy heights that so many other sitcoms have got to. I would definitely recommend it.
Final verdict: With a little bit of patience, you will find a rewarding comedy in Cougar Town. Ignore the Cougar premise and just focus on the characters.