Complete First Season
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All photos © ABC
Reviewed by Will Harris
hen Bill Lawrence announced that he was going to be putting together his first new sitcom since creating “Scrubs,” TV fans everywhere – well, the cool ones who pay attention to creative credits, anyway – got really excited about the prospect of what that guy’s mind might conceive. In the end, what emerged was a show that sprang forth not just from Lawrence but also from that of Kevin Biegel, also a “Scrubs” alumnus. Unfortunately, based on the general premise initially offered up by ABC, it didn’t exactly sound like something that would seem to appeal to guys:
Courtney Cox stars as a recently divorced single mother exploring the honest truths about dating and aging in our beauty and youth-obsessed culture.
Despite initial concerns about the “chick show” nature of a show called “Cougar Town” (a title which, for the record, Lawrence came up with as a joke and has pretty much regretted ever since), once the series’ cast began to fill up with alumni from some seriously funny shows, it became a lot harder for people to shrug off. In Bullz-Eye’s 2009 Fall Preview, I wrote of the pilot, “The story of Jules's life and times has the potential to make the series into a better ‘Sex and the City’ successor than either ‘Cashmere Jungle’ or ‘Lipstick Mafia’ (yes, I know I mixed those up, but really, does it matter?), and the dysfunctional dynamic makes it a perfect show to follow ‘Modern Family.’ It's already funny, but the potential for growth is considerable. Here's hoping it gets the chance to evolve.”
Boy, did it.
If you’ve heretofore ignored “Cougar Town” because you found the word “cougar” an offensive stereotype of women who’s crossed the 40-year mark, now’s the time to reconsider that decision. With the release of “Cougar Town: The Complete First Season,” you’ve been given a great opportunity to watch a show grow from what was ostensibly a one-note concept (“Newly divorced mom re-enters the dating scene, wacky hijinks ensue!”) into a comedic ensemble that’s more than earned the right to sit next to its hipper ABC sitcom sibling, the aforementioned “Modern Family.”
Yes, the premise stays approximately the same throughout the majority of the season, with Jules Cobb (Cox) selling real estate by day, playing the field by night, and trying to be raise her teenage son Travis (Dan Byrd) without having him succumb to the dodgy influence offered by his slacker dad, Bobby (Brian Van Holt). Yes, Jules is still ably aided – if sometimes poorly abetted – by her best friends Ellie (Christa Miller) and Laurie (Busy Phillips), whose completely opposite natures tend to wreak havoc on Jules’ life as often as they offer assistance. So what’s the difference between where the series begins and where it finishes the season? Well, for one thing, Jules isn’t playing the field nearly as much, but it’s way more than just that.
“Cougar Town: The Complete First Season” starts as a show about a single woman and her friends, but it ends as a show about a bunch of friends, some of whom are married and some of whom are single. Jules is one of the single ones, of course, but so is Laurie – and, for that matter, so are Travis and Bobby. As the season progressed, Lawrence, Biegel, and their creative team discovered that, in addition to the former “Friend” fronting their show, they’d also managed to find a cast which worked well together, characters which turned out to be more complex than they’d originally intended, and, ultimately, a series which was much more than just the story of a recently divorced single mother. Okay, fair enough, it probably still appeals more to women than men, but the men get their say on a regular basis, too, and in the end, everyone’s dirty laundry gets aired, with both genders laughing and saying, “Okay, that’s funny, but I think you might be laughing just a little too hard.”
As you watch “Cougar Town” from pilot to season finale, you may not be aware of the show’s development right away, given that it happens so gradually. Once it hits you, though, you’ll find yourself backdating to try and figure out the moment things really started to change, and the next thing you know, you’re watching it all over again…and still laughing just as hard.
Special Features: The three-disc release of “Cougar Town” probably isn’t as strong as it could have been in the bonus material department, but there is a nice collection of deleted scenes (including one of particular interest in the pilot where Grayson is a psychiatrist instead of a bar owner) and a short featurette that discusses the show’s departure from being exclusively about “cougaring” into a more traditional family comedy (“Taming Cougar Town”). Rounding out the set is a blooper reel, a “My Sexuality” music video, and a series of video blogs with Barb (“Ask Barb”) and Bobby (“Stroking It with Bobby Cobb”).