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Case Number 19532

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Cougar Town: The Complete First Season

ABC Studios // 2009 // 520 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // August 23rd, 2010

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All Rise...

Thanks to Judge Patrick Bromley's unfortunate shoe fetish, his family has dubbed his closet Puma Town.

Editor's Note

Our review of Cougar Town: The Complete Second Season, published September 7th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

40 is the new 20.

Opening Statement

I watched the pilot for Cougar Town, co-created by Scrubs showrunner Bill Lawrence, when it debuted on ABC last Fall season. It was, unfortunately, the show I expected: sex-obsessed and smutty, existing seemingly for the sole purpose of pushing the line for what could get past the censors on network TV. One viewing was enough. It wasn't that the show's subject matter offended me; it was that I didn't find much of it funny. I checked out of Cougar Town.

As the season wore on, however, I began to hear rumblings that the series had course-corrected and turned into something far better than how it had begun. And though I never dropped back into the show while its first season was airing, the new release of Cougar Town: The Complete First Season on DVD allowed me to catch up on what I had missed and determine if I had been wrong about the show.

The good news is that I was.

Facts of the Case

Meet Jules Cobb (Courtney Cox, Friends), recently-divorced single mother of a high-schooler, Travis (Dan Byrd, The Hills Have Eyes) and owner of her own successful Florida real estate agency. Feeling burned and tired of seeing 40something men like her neighbor, Grayson Ellis (Josh Hopkins, Pretty Ugly People) date girls half his age, Jules decides to start dating younger men. With the encouragement of her best friend Ellie (Krista Miller, The Drew Carey Show) and co-worker Laurie (Busy Phillips, He's Just Not That Into You), Jules sets out to become a full-blown "cougar."

At least, that's how Cougar Town begins. After the first few episodes, though, the focus shifts away from a show about 40-year old women dating younger men and becomes a show about hanging out with friends and creating an extended family. We get to better know characters like Andy, Ellie's passive husband (played by Ian Gomez of Wake), and Jules' ex-husband Bobby Cobb (Brian Van Holt, House of Wax), a washed-up golf pro living on a boat (that's not on water) and always looking for a new angle. Over the course of the first season, characters hook up, have their hearts broken and, most importantly, chase a red balloon filled with money.

The Evidence

There are so many things that should stop Cougar Town from being as good as it is. Let's examine a few of them:

1) The premise. A show about older women dating younger men isn't particularly interesting, even when Bill Lawrence and company attempt to squeeze in some funny/touching messages about what it means to be a middle-aged woman in America. Thankfully, the show only holds to this premise for the first five or six episodes before it begins rapidly evolving into the show it would eventually become—a sitcom about the fun of creating and hanging out with your makeshift family, and the way that we create our own worlds with the help of the people we love. Cougar Town quickly became the best kind of ensemble comedy, where the humor comes from the characters just as much as it comes from the gags (and this being a Bill Lawrence show, there are a lot of gags—as any fan of his previous series Scrubs can attest to).

2) The title. This is what keeps most people (including myself, originally) from Cougar Town. After the show has transformed into something else by the end of its first season, there was discussion about the possibility of the title being changed to something else. Though I'm not exactly a fan of the name Cougar Town, I can't say I support changing the name during the show's run. It is what it is, and hopefully people will be willing to overlook the bad title (are names like Friends and How I Met Your Mother that much better?) as the word continues to spread that this is a show worth watching.

3) The characters. On the surface, there aren't many characters on Cougar Town that I immediately like or care about. Courtney Cox carries a lot of goodwill over from Friends (where she evolved from dull straight-woman into gifted comic actress over the course of the series), but the early, boy-crazy incarnation of Jules is hard to warm to. Busy Phillips at first appears to be doing generic party-girl trash, while Krista Miller is basically just doing her character from Scrubs. Josh Hopkins as Grayson feels plastic and underwritten in the beginning, and Brian Van Holt's Bobby Cobb feels like every loser ex-husband the TV sitcom has ever presented. Within a handful of episodes, though, all of those characters change and grow and become more and more likable. Whether it's the result of better acting and writing or simply a case of Stockholm Syndrome (the more time you spend with a group of people, the more likely they are to endear themselves to you) I cannot say; whatever the reason, it wasn't long before I found myself liking all of the characters—even Grayson. The cast finds new colors to play, and even those that seem like cookie cutter sitcom tropes—like Bobby Cobb—become inspired, original creations that work well alone but really well when bouncing off one another. And, while, yes, Krista Miller is still pretty much doing her Scrubs character, she's given a much different partner to spar with in the soft, passive Ian Gomez. Like the entire cast of Cougar Town, they find ways to keep surprising us.

Cougar Town: The Complete First Season comes to DVD courtesy of ABC Studios. The 24 episodes are spread out over three discs, all presented in an anamorphic transfer of 1.78:1. For a standard definition DVD set, the shows look outstanding—they're bright and incredibly colorful and appear to be free of any technical problems. The 5.1 audio track is serviceable, offering clear dialogue and balancing it out with the occasional pop song (Lawrence is a fan of the late-episode montage scored to pop music, a formula he started on Scrubs and was quickly adopted by what seems like every other show on TV). If there's any disappointment to this DVD set, it's in the extras department. There's a brief production featurette, "Taming Cougar Town, that talks a little about how the show changed over its first season. There's a collection of deleted scenes and an unfunny gag reel that runs about 90 seconds. There's a Cougar Town parody that ran on Jimmy Kimmel Live called "Saber-Tooth Tiger Town," which has a terrible name but a couple of funny, incredibly raunchy jokes and stars Shirley Jones and Cloris Leachman, the only senior citizen more game for a laugh than Betty White. Lastly, there's a pair of lame, jokey featurettes: "Ask Barb," featuring the minor supporting character giving dirty answers to questions and "Stroking It with Bobby Cobb," which are instructional golf parodies featuring Brian Van Holt.

Closing Statement

If you (like me) were avoiding Cougar Town because of the terrible title and lame-sounding premise, you should (also like me) forget what you think you know and give it another chance. It's a terrific ensemble comedy.

The Verdict

You should be watching this.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 49
Acting: 87
Story: 86
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: ABC Studios
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 520 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Bloopers

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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