Cougar Town: Pilot (series premiere)
by Joel Keller, posted Sep 23rd 2009 10:01PM
(S01E01) I have faith in Bill Lawrence. I know that he's a guy who doesn't want to put out shows that are crap, and that if something he produces is crap (hello, sixth season of Scrubs), he cops to it and vows to improve.
That being said, I really, really hope he has the time to work his magic on Cougar Town. Because what I see from the pilot are the bones of a good show, but one that's going to need some time to develop.
I like the actors. I like the premise. There were a lot of funny lines. I even like the fact that Lawrence re-shot certain scenes to make them sound like they're from a more female point of view. But even in the pilot, you can see signs that this show can devolve into something more cartoonish than real, and right now it's a 50-50 shot that it'll do just that.
Courteney Cox is definitely the right person to play Jules Cobb, though. Yes, she's beautiful. Yes, she could probably get any man she wants, even boy toys like the kid she picked up in the club in the pilot. But with Cox you've always seen the goofy vulnerability behind the pretty face, all the way back to her Monica Gellar days. And here, you can believe that she's a recently-divorced 40-something who wants to be "out there" but doesn't want to be considered one of "those" women. Oh, and how many actresses could pull off the opening scene, where Jules distressingly pokes and prods at her "flab" and wrinkles, and make it believable (yes, that's actually Cox's body in those shots)?
And, even though the "C-word" ("Cougar..." get your minds out of the gutter) is never uttered -- the high school's mascot is the Cougars, so the town is nicknamed "Cougar Town" -- we all know that's what Jules is trying to avoid becoming, either in perception or fact. She doesn't want to become like her fellow real estate agent Barbara, swilling martinis and banging anyone above drinking age. But she can't sit there and rot like her married friends Ellie and Andy.
It's that conflict which will fuel the show, and if anyone can pull it off, it's Cox. When she laments that every man her age is either "married, gay or broken," and that it's lonely out there, you believe her.
I just wish that the rest of the show's characters were as well-drawn as Jules is. Ellie seems like the same hardened wife/best friend Christa Miller has played since The Drew Carey Show, and we need to see a bit more of her soft side. Ian Gomez as her husband Andy just looks like the typical sitcom sap of a husband. Her neighbor Grayson (Josh Hopkins) right now just looks like the embodiment of the middle-aged dating double standard, and not an intelligent one at that. And Jules' ex Bobby (Brian Van Holt) seems to be so dumb that it's hard for the viewer to believe that even a 20-year old Jules would sleep with him, much less marry him.
The characters that stand out are Jules' young assistant Laurie (Busy Philipps) and her son Travis (Dan Byrd). Those are relationships where I can see potential because of what they represent. Travis is embarrassed by his mom but is also protective (he beats a classmate up with his mom's provocative real estate sign when he's taunted with it), and Laurie is constantly trying to pull on her boss/BFF to have more fun. Both of those relationships are at the core of the show, and I hope they get explored more as time goes on. Besides, Cox has great chemistry with both Byrd and Philipps, which helps.
More fun stuff:
- Do we really need to see the scarring-for-life picture of Travis seeing his mom give some dude oral sex? Hopefully, there will be ramifications to this later on.
- The kid stealing Jules' signs was amusing at first, but by the time she and Laurie were chasing the kid through the town, things got a tad old.
- Not sure why I liked the "samurai" line and the call-back later, but it worked.
- "Stan? How old is your baby? 60?" Ah, the comedic goldmine of babies with old people's names...
- Lawrence and his staff have an obsession with adults wearing onesies, don't they? Just take a look at about a half-dozen episodes of Scrubs for evidence.