When Cougar Town first started airing last fall, you could tell that one of the men behind it was Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs (Lawrence co-created Cougar Town with Kevin Biegel). The quick edits, snappy music cues, the manic style of acting, and the overall banter between the actors felt like his medical dramedy had picked up and moved to Florida, only the lead character was much more attractive and much less annoying than Zach Braff had become by the end of Scrubs run. Courteney Cox made a welcome return to television, yet the show didn’t know exactly what to do with her, as you can see when you watch the early episodes on the Complete First Season DVD.
I hate writing that an actress as gifted as Cox seemed to be falling back into the comforts of the role that made her famous (Monica on Friends, as if you didn’t know), but it certainly feels that way at times during the first disc. However, at some point during the second disc of episodes, mid season, I’m estimating, the show found its footing, it found its own style, and suddenly it became more of an ensemble comedy and less of a one woman show.
I don’t want to say that this was the point in Cougar Town’s production that Lawrence was no longer dealing with the ill advised Scrubs off shoot that was mercifully yanked from the air. But it does seem that once that show disappeared, Cougar Town started to get much better.
At the heart of the show is Cox’s, Jules, as divorced mother who still has an amicable relationship with her surfer dude ex husband, Bobby (Brian Van Holt). Jules and her teenage son, Travis (a dry, scene stealing Dan Byrd), live in a quiet cul de sac, next door to Jules’ best friend, Ellie (Christa Miller) and her husband, Andy (the always funny Ian Gomez). The other people who round out the little family that forms around Jules are her co-worker, Laurie (Busy Phillips), who is younger and likes to party, and her neighbor, Grayson (Josh Hopkins), a divorced man who owns a restaurant.
Each of these characters has evolved over the course of the first seasons 24 episodes. The most enjoyable parts of the show have been watching Cox and Byrd form a funny, but loving relationship. Both actors are aces at delivering one liners, but they also know how to make a scene more emotional and poignant. Their interplay is a pleasure to watch. Equally interesting is watching how Jules and Grayson gradually become friends, despite their distaste for each other early in the season. Cox and Hopkins have nice chemistry. That said I wish the writers would have waited at least until the second season to consummate their relationship as a couple. I guess we’ll have plenty of seasons of the two of them breaking up and making up?
Cougar Town turned out to a be a pleasant surprise last fall and watching all of the episodes back to back shows that it’s a show with legs. I can see it going on for four or five seasons, which is pretty long in this age of television. As long as this cast is still around and the writing remains sharp, Cougar Town will remain a bright spot in ABC’s comedy renaissance.
The DVD set includes some nice features. In addition to the standard blooper reel and deleted scenes, there is a decent featurette about the genesis of the show that features interviews with Lawrence, Biegel, Cox and others. There’s a Jimmy Kimmel bit, ”Saber Tooth Tiger Town,” and also a comedy piece, ”Stroking It With Bobby,” featuring the very funny Van Holt in character.
Cougar Town: The Complete First Season is available through Amazon.