1.07.2011

What the Cougar Town is up with that?


Picture it. Fall, 2009. Bill Lawrence and Courtney Cox are premiering a new series called Cougar Town. Bill Lawrence playing on cultural slang trends? Courtney Cox starring in a series about a forty-something woman chasing younger men? Disaster was splattered on the wall. Everywhere. It reeked of awful whoredom -- the unfun kind.

It premiered. And it sucked. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but it still wasn't good. I watched about two episodes and then smugly turned my head. That season I was right about most of the shows at which I turned up my nose.

But then, in Fall of 2010, Louis, the bearded pirate of TV intelligentsia that he is, told me to cut it the fuck out. Actually, he said the show had changed for the better. My friend P, man about town and generally in-the-know, had said the same thing to me earlier. But P was going through some shit and I assumed he might have been tipsy -- literally, or figuratively, on the Cox. But now P and Louis were pointing to the prospect of Lawrence and Cox having figured it out.

How does one make Cougar Town work?

Apparently you just decide midstream in the first season that you're making a different show. And that's what they apparently did. I jumped back on the wagon in the second season and I'm loving the show. Cougar Town is now just a show about friends in their 30's-40's. They have relationships, kids, jobs -- and it's just a goofy, snarky show about being an adult. And coping with that fact. We don't see them at work much. It's about Miller time. (Or for these characters, it's wine o'clock.) The weekends. These are people that work to live. Basically, it's a treatise on how you can be grown up and not end up on Parenthood. Thank god.

At first, for me, Cougar Town was a guilty pleasure, then a worrisome sign that I'm turning into the actual curmudgeon I've always played at (as a boy, I was a remarkably good third wheel to Statler and Waldorf). Here I am, breeding and co-habitating, drinking tea at night instead of beer or whiskey, and watching Cougar Town. Egads!

But I think it's less me (of course), and more the current landscape of TV. In a word, it blows. More accurately, the golden age is coming to a close, and now we have a few great (aging) shows, some decent ones, a bunch posing as descendants of the said waning golden age, and a lot of crap.

Because, as much as I like the show (and without knocking Lawrence, Cox, and team), what kind of season are we in where Cougar Town -- a show built on an inane hook/tag line that was ready-made to sell and ready-made to bust -- is currently one of the most reliable comedies on television? Sure, it's smart, quirky and has found its own unique voice. But it did that midstream, and was rebirthed like a Lawrence-y phoenix in the middle of its first season.

In 2007 it wouldn't have made it past the first season. In 2005 it wouldn't have made it past its fourth episode. But in 2009-2010, it's riding strong. Its episode this week saw a ratings boost, and many are acknowledging its ascendancy.

So what the Cougar Town is up with that? Where are we heading? What's going on? I seem to be weeding out shows left and right. A few years back I could barely keep up with my DVR, and I had to fit shows in on Hulu or nix them out all together because I could only watch so much TV. This year, I'm managing to keep up and nixing shows because I just don't care to watch them -- and with a baby on top of that.

I really like Cougar Town. It's one of only three to four shows I watch the night it airs or the next day on DVR. Most of the "must-see" TV or anticipated series of this season left me wanting. Some left me as cold as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. (shudder)

I couldn't say that a while back. And maybe it's just me. I'm all growns up. But I don't think that's it. I think the movie industry has been feeding off its own collapsed, bloated carcass -- and now TV looks like it may be following suit. There's a cyclical nature to all these things. TV and film have been fighting to stay on top since the idiot box first blew up. But 2010 wasn't exactly a phoenix-y year for movies. At all.

So what's a guy to do? Me? I'm reading much more, and playing third wheel to Statler and Waldorf.

How about the rest of you?

ps. Who else is watching Cougar Town? If you're not, you're missing out.

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