Cast: Courtney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Phillips, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez, Brian Van Holt
While Cougar Town looked like it would finally be sacked from the TV, TBS swooped in and bought Bill Lawrence’s amusing sitcom, saving the show from the dark abyss of failed comedies. This season also sees Ric Swartzlander take over the role of show-runner, as Lawrence watches as a consultant. This is a smooth change; Swartzlander seems to know the material well and if it wasn’t for a little research on my part, I wouldn’t have known at all. The title remains the same and is now receiving even more jokes at its expense: ‘A title so bad, even a new channel couldn’t change it’. I like the old title staying, although I do think it missed a trick with proposed new title: ‘Friends with Beverages’.
The season picks up right where the third season left off. Although it was clear the series was braced for being written off, it still left itself with several avenues to explore, especially the relationship between Laurie and Travis. This is one of the key plot points of the season, especially when Laurie’s overseas boyfriend, Wade, comes home from services in the military. Over than that, there isn’t much you need to know in between each episode. The cul-de-sac crew just continue on as normal, bringing us fresh laughs for each episode.
Swartzlander’s outside perspective actually comes in handy at some points. As a fan of the show, he knows which jokes work well. Tom, the creepy neighbour portrayed by Bob Clendenin, gets much more screen time and Jules’s needy relationship with her son goes up a few touches on the creepy notch. It makes for some good humour. On the other hand, plot points are dropped. Last season, we learnt that Grayson had a daughter with one of his exes (a convenient way to get over the ‘Grayson wants kids, but the writers don’t want Jules to be pregnant for an entire season), but there is hardly a mention of that, this season.
TBS has also brought Twitter into the Cougar Town craze. Every time a suitable chance for a joke presents itself, a potential hashtag trend shoots across the screen: ‘#ThingsEllieNeverSays, #NewNamesForBobby’sBoat. It is something that could be quite funny, although the idea is lost on Cougar Town’s niche fan base. It is another sign that Cougar Town needs to pick up some more viewers from somewhere.
The finale feels a little dud this season. As there is not really much overlying story this season, Swartzlander tacks on some plot line, where Chick’s health begins deteriorating. The emotion is there, as ever, but it feels like an afterthought rather than a reveal for the end of the season. Also, there seems to be a trend where the gang go on holiday for the final two episodes, which could limit any future directions the gang wants to take. I see that Swartzlander is trying to get a pattern going, but Cougar Town has more than enough already.
Thankfully, Season five has been announced for 2014. Two new relationships start up that need exploring and the show also hints at two new members of the cul-de-sac crew. There is too much at stake to throw away. But once again, guys, start watching this show. It deserves a following.
Final verdict: Swartzlander knows what to get from the series and applies his writing talents well. As ever, Cougar Town does not fail to disappoint.