Saturday, April 04, 2015

Television Thoughts—Cougar Town (2009-2015)

TV-14, 6 seasons, 102 22-min. episodes

Creators: Kevin Biegel, Bill Lawrence

Directors: John Putch, Michael McDonald, Courtney Cox, Bill Lawrence, Gail Mancuso, Bruce Leddy, Chris Koch, Michael Spiller, Josh Hopkins, Jamie Babbit, Lee Shallat Chemel, Phil Traill, Ken Wittingham, Millicent Shelton, Randall Winston, Sam Jones, Brian Van Holt, Busy Philipps, Courtney Rowe

Writers: Kevin Biegel, Bill Lawrence, Melody Derloshon, Blake McCormick, Peter Saji, Mary Fitzgerald, Jessica Goldstein, Chrissy Pietrosh, Sean Lavery, Ryan Koh, Sam Laybourne, Sanjay Shah, Kate Purdy, Brad Morris, Emily R. Wilson, Michael McDonald, Gregg Mettler, Linda Videtti Figueiredo, Mara Brock Akil, Rachel Specter, Audrey Wauchope, Michael Lisbe, Nate Reger, Aaron Ho, Austen Faggen, Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, Jen D’Angelo, Eric Ernst

Starring: Courtney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Philipps, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez, Brian Van Holt, Bob Clendenin

Guest starring: Carolyn Hennesy, Ken Jenkins, Lamarcus Tinker, Sawyer Ever, Ryan Devlin, Spencer Locke, Brad Morris, Barry Bostwick, Collette Wolfe, Briga Heelan, Edwin Hodge, Nicole Sullivan, Shawn Parihk, Nick Zano, Scott Foley, Sarah Chalke, Sheryl Crow, Maria Thayer, Ryan Biegel, Lou Diamond Phillips, Yasmin Deliz, Michael McDonald, Shirley Jones, David Arquette, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford, Rachel Harris, Beverly D’Angelo, Susan Blakely, Matthew Perry, Paula Newsome, Alan Ruck, Lisa Kudrow, Nia Vardalos, Ahmed Best, Michelle Williams

Last Tuesday I had to hold back tears. One of my most beloved television shows came to an end. I wasn’t brought to the edge of tears because of the emotionally jarring conclusions for the characters’ to their story, however. No, their story’s end was just as ridiculous as just about any episode’s worth. No, I was nearly brought to tears because there just isn’t any other television series like it out there. The closest to it might be “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, but that one probably has higher aspirations.

I’m writing about the show “Cougar Town”, which started out its life on ABC as a fitting replacement to the creator’s former show “Scrubs”. It was canceled by ABC after three seasons, which is a strange time to cancel a show as only one more season will generally provide enough episodes to sell it into syndication and barrels of advertising dollars for no extra expense. But, ABC yanked it and TBS picked it up for another three seasons.  Of course, I’m sure for many—once it made the leap to cable—it all but ceased to exist.

I know! You’re saying to yourself, “Really, Andy? ‘Cougar Town’ is a terrible show!” Many a time I would post on social media that I was watching it and friends would reply with a “Why?!” The truth is, it was the ultimate guilty pleasure for me. It is a terrible show. It is utterly stupid, with stupid characters doing things that nobody ever does and hardly matter to anybody but these particular made up people. And the reason it works for me is that the show’s cast and crew seemed to know all that. They were well aware that it was crap and enhanced it by embracing what it was with the unconditional love of family. They make fun of themselves with the ridiculous way they depict themselves and the moronic things they do. How else can you explain why the small detail of a game invented by a bored character could become one of the iconic moments of the series? “Penny can!!!”

When ABC first announced the series, I thought it sounded stupid. It was supposed to be about an aging beauty who hooked up with younger men in competition with other cougars. I’m not sure that really would’ve appealed to anybody. Then, for some reason I watched the trailer they made for it. It was very funny. I decided to try it out. While it did sort of follow that premise at first, it was willing to go just about anywhere for laughs. Soon, its original premise had been abandoned for a focus on the group of friends that made up the “Cul-de-sac Crew”, their love of wine, and their ridiculous ideas that nobody would ever have or follow to any sort of conclusions if they did. They even made fun of the show’s ill-fitting title in the opening credits sequence every episode.

The truth is the series lost much of its punch after it moved to TBS. Having a little more freedom to be “adult” didn’t serve the show’s writing well. Still, I had already come to love the characters and they still did some awfully silly things that I enjoyed watching. Would I have ever recommended this show to anyone? Not ever. It would destroy my reputation as a critic. I should tear it apart. There is almost no value to be found in this show. And yet, I very much enjoyed it. I’m very sad to see it go. Please, don’t check it out, though. I don’t want you to think less of me.

No comments: