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The cougars have come to town: New sitcom tries hard but falls flat

By sriktemp

Section: Arts

October 15, 2009

Given the number of May-December romances in Hollywood lately (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Kim Cattrall and whoever), it was only a matter of time until art imitated life in the form of ABC’s new show on Wednesday nights, “Cougar Town.”

This sitcom, from “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence and “Scrubs” collaborator Kevin Biegel, focuses on the day-to-day struggles that newly divorced single mother, Jules Cobb, faces as she tries to gracefully plunge back into the dating pool.

However, the show fails to exude the same charm and spunky charisma as “Scrubs.” At times it comes close when there happens to be a fortuitous volley of one-liners between characters. All in all, the viewer spends more time questioning whether they can stand Jules, her nagging friends or her deadbeat husband, than being taken in by this lineup of quirky characters.

Even the message of the show is hard to uncover. Jules is portrayed as a successful real estate agent cruising from date, to dropping her son off at school, to another date in a flashy red convertible, while her dead-beat ex-husband is left standing on her doorstep begging for advances on her alimony payment. Despite Jules’ apparent professional success, the show does not necessarily positively showcase the lives of independent older women. Instead of defiantly insisting there is life after marriage, the show’s message asks rather timidly if there is such a thing as a dignified life after marriage for middle-aged single mother.

For instance, in the pilot episode, Jules is caught performing a certain act on a male at least 15 years her junior, by her teenage son and ex-husband. The viewer automatically cringes from embarrassment rather than enjoy the humor of the situation.

And who better to play the role of the star cougar than Courteney Cox, who we watched grow up in her twenties on “Friends,” and are now reunited with her in her forties. However, while Cox’s “Friends” character, Monica, was a charming neurotic, Jules is too high-strung, blunt and inconsistent to be endearing to the audience.

Jules’ sidekicks on the show are married mother of one, Ellie, and party girl, Laurie. Christa Miller, who played Jordan, Dr. Cox’s vindictive off-again, on-again wife on “Scrubs,” is Ellie, and essentially plays the same character minus the biting sense of humor. While Ellie is bitter and snappy, she does not have that same charm as her previous counterpart on “Scrubs.” Without that allure, Ellie just comes off looking insecure and out of place in a show that is trying so hard to be laugh-out-loud funny.

Four episodes in, “Cougar Town” already seems to be betraying all of its plot secrets, such as the inevitable relationship that will occur between Jules and her fellow divorcée neighbor. It might just be safe to say that “Cougar Town” is beyond the help of renovation and ready for retirement.

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