The final seasons of Scrubs were a dark time for the series. The shark had long been jumped over; JD’s musings were no longer endearing, as they’d passed into tiresome and old by about the fifth season; Eliot’s neuroticism didn’t develop in any particular direction and the character became an overly repetitive joke about overly self-conscious people with parental issues; Cox’s once hilarious rants had deteriorated as for some reason he was the one character the writers felt needed to grow and so as he evolved to embrace his fatherly status, his bright moments vanished; and the marriage of Turk and Carla ceased to be anything new by about season 3, making them the control relationship against which everyone else’s was judged. The show, as a whole, ran out of gas halfway through and coasted for as long as possible. Think this sounds a bit harsh? It was even said in an interview with the show’s creators that they wanted it to go as long as possible (including into the poorly thought out spin-off that mercifully died) so that the people they employed wouldn’t lose their jobs in this tough economy. A noble effort, sure, but it also meant that fans of the show had to watch as their beloved characters got stuck in a loop repeating all the same things over and over.
Why am I talking at such lengths about Scrubs? Because Cougar Town comes from the mind of Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs and Spin City, two phenomenal shows in their heydays, and represents what Scrubs needed to revert to if it was going to keep on going. It didn’t and so this new series arose out of the ashes, and it’s surprisingly funny and reminds us why we loved the shows Bill Lawrence started all those years ago. The first season has quite a few laugh-out-loud moments in each episode and delivers in a way many sitcoms don’t today.
The divorced, mother-of-one, Jules (Courteney Cox) really can only claim her single status in name only. Her ex-husband, Bobby Cobb (Brian Van Holt), remains in the picture and helps her raise their teenage son, Travis (Dan Byrd), who seems to have it together more than any of the adults filling out the ensemble. Jules’s two best friends, Ellie Torres (Christa Miller, pretty much playing the exact same role she played in Scrubs as the bitter, sarcastic wife of Dr. Cox) and the ditzy, flirtatious Laurie (Busy Philipps), help her find new love as a single woman – despite being a mom and having the ex-husband in her kitchen on a daily basis. Also in the picture is Ellie’s husband Andy (Ian Gomez), who provides some of the greatest moments in the first season, and Jules’s obvious crush and somewhat neighborhood rival, Grayson (John Hopkins). There’s very little mystery that Jules and Grayson are going to hook up at some point (kind of like Elliot and JD), but that’s not what the show is about. It’s about getting to those relationships and how they’re impacted by the factors of growing older, the friends and family around you, and the basic insecurities inherent in every couple.
I haven’t been a fan of Courteney Cox since she and Matthew Perry became a couple on Friends (because that was really the end of Chandler’s funniest moments for the entire series). Dirt peaked in its first season and then just crashed and burned in its second, and Courteney’s film endeavors have never really picked up (just like each and every one of her Friends co-stars – even Jennifer Aniston, though she keeps making duds undaunted). Yet, while Cox has found a great new vehicle which will undoubtedly carry on for at least a few more seasons, she’s hardly the force propelling it onward. The supporting cast easily outshines her, but that’s not from a failing on her part, it’s because everyone else is terrific. The Miller and Gomez pairing was especially brilliant with their constant conflicts over proper parenting of their newborn garnering what has to be the funniest episode in the first season (wherein Andy attempts to prove himself a capable father by utilizing a baby cage, a gerbil cage-styled milk dispenser, and the personal favorite “baby on a rope” method.) Add to the mix a great selection of characters by Van Holt, Philipps, and Byrd (who’s incredible as the son of Jules and Bobby) and you have one of the best new sitcoms on television. Hands down. This is a season worth purchasing.
DVD Bonus Features
As with the Scrubs DVD releases, the Cougar Town first season release was done right. The plentiful extras start with bloopers (pretty good) and deleted scenes (mostly forgettable), and a piece about how ABC went from marketing the show as a comedy to its more current sexy image (though after watching the first season, the sexy element isn’t nearly as prevalent as the comedy, as most of the show involves pre- and post-dating issues, and rarely ever dwells on Jules’s life during a date. Jimmy Kimmel’s moderately funny short “Saber-Tooth Tiger Town” is also included along with a Q&A session with a real-life cougar (the archetype, not the animal) and a funny piece with Van Holt in character as Bobby.
"Cougar Town: The Complete First Season" is on sale August 17, 2010 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Bill Lawrence, Chris Koch, Gail Mancuso, John Putch, Michael McDonald. Written by Kevin Biegel, Bill Lawrence. Starring Brian Van Holt, Busy Philipps, Christa Miller, Courteney Cox, Dan Byrd, Ian Gomez, Josh Hopkins.