[Julie Klausner is a former writer for Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins and author of the forthcoming book, I Don't Care About Your Band. She is also Videogum's Senior Melrose Place correspondent, but today she analyzes the first episode of Courtney Cox Arquette's new show, Cougar Town]
What is funnier than a middle-aged woman who wants and enjoys sex? Literally nothing. It’s like a dog wearing a sombrero! Such is the premise of the new ABC sitcom, Cougar Town, Population: Cougars (the subtitle of the show was “eighty-six’d” in pre-production stages). That’s right, it was “eighty-six’d.” Also, “23 Skidoo!” and “Say, kid! Wanna do that dance where we put our hands on our knees and squat, then alternate our hands to the tops of our other knees?”
In the pilot episode, Courtney Cox-Arquette plays 40-year old Jules Cobb, a real estate agent who moves to Sarasota, which has changed its name to Cougar Town (not really), with her 17-year old son after a divorce. Jules is, to paraphrase Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, ready to “get busy datin’ or get busy dyin’.” Because she’s so old, she could easily do both.
She’s not that old. But nobody is allowed to point that out, because her being old and wanting teenage boys inside of her is the heart of Cougar Town–the veritable key to the city’s premise, handed out by the mayor.
I should say this before going any further–and give you a chance to jump ship while I do so: I have to say, I thought Cougar Town was pretty good. Hear me out! Its title was one of several signs that pointed to MILF Island territory, and those “40 is the new 20″ subway ads seemed to be setting America up for All About Steve: The Musical: The TV Show. But the producers of Cougar Town are in on the joke.
I’m told the show is like Scrubs, which I didn’t watch because I’m allergic to Zach Braff, but which I understand was very specifically paced, and occasionally charming and funny, and a lot of people who like sitcoms were extremely fond of it. The producers of Cougar Town, or Cougarton, from the Dutch spelling, are, not coincidentally, Scrubs Alums (Scrubs Alubs? Yes! Let’s make up that phrase), and it’s suchly scored in excess by constant guitar riffs,. But the good news is that there are some funny jokes in the script, the actors, for the most part, are committed and likeable, and Courtney Cox-Arquette, still a great comedic sitcom actress, has the timing of a total pro.
Is anybody still here? Does anybody still trust me now that I’ve professed a desire to move to, or at least take up dual citizenship in, Cougar Town? Fine. Then let’s get busy recappin’.
The premiere of the show starts out in the bathroom, as all great stories do. Courtney Cox-Arquette gets out of the shower and, despite having the same body fat-to-cheekbone ratio she did on Friends, pinches and prods herself in the mirror so as to appear flabby and disgusting.
“Crap!” she exclaims, and a nation of people over 40 who weigh as much as three Courtney Cox-Arquette’s holler back, in unison, “Sing it, Child!”
Cougars: They’re just like us!
We follow Courtney (“Jules”) to a high school football game, where she sits in the bleachers with her best friend, Laurie, and teenage son, Travis, and bemoans the state of Dating Today. “All the single guys are either broken, gay, or chasing younger girls.” She leaves out the permutation of a broken gay in her “Undateables” Venn Diagram, because there are no Dwights in Cougar Town.
Later that night, Jules lounges around in a shawl-collared cashmere wrap and sips red wine on the couch. She talks to her neighbor, an actress from Scrubs, who complains about how much she hates sex with her husband. I don’t know why there weren’t any cats sleeping in the background, or why the set designers couldn’t have tiled the walls of her living room apartment with copies of Eat, Pray, Love, just to really nail the mise-en-scène, but I guess the recession affects us all in different ways.
The next morning, Jules sees her male neighbor put his pretty, young, female lover into a cab after a night of sex, and it drives her nuts. Did it drive YOU nuts to read the phrase “pretty, young, female lover”? Just kidding: that is none of my business. Jules rails against the double standard of it being okay for old guys to date younger women. Then, she flashes a teenage boy on a bike–because she has become unhinged!
By the way, what the hell? Is the thing where ladies flashing people–and occasionally, America–Kara DioGuardi’s doing?
Is Ladies Flashing People the new Perverts Opening Their Raincoats? Well I hope not, because I don’t care for it, and I hope people knock it off.
Jules drives Travis to school and teases him about how the kid she flashed is in his class. “Is he single?” she asks her son, who skulks off. “Why don’t you ever laugh at my jokes?” Jules asks. Travis replies, “Because they make me sad.” Touché, Cougar Town.
Later that day, Jules is driving around with Laurie when she suddenly slams on the brakes when she sees an ad for her real estate services.
It turns out Laurie submitted a sexy photo of Jules without her permission. This exact thing also happened in I Love You, Man, when Jason Segal made ads for Paul Rudd without his permission, but perhaps this is just the “chick version” of what may very well happen all the time in the Realtor World, about which I admittedly know little.
Laurie convinces Jules to go out later that night “on the prowl,” but Jules is turned off by the term. Now that I’m thinking about it out loud, Jules starts out as a regular lady, but the pilot documents her morphing into a Cougar. There are stories in Heavy Metal magazine that detail the same phenomenon, but the lead character is usually not wearing a Tory Burch shift dress.
Jules swings by the house and has an interaction with her ex-husband, who is a doofus, and licks peanut butter off a spoon in front of him to tempt him with sex, then says “Just kidding,” because she only wants to bone boys now.
Later, Jules changes into her clubbing clothes, and a’prowling she goes, to a club called Soho, which is hilarious to me because I live in Manhattan and people in Florida don’t. Haha! I am a sad jerk.
Laurie and Jules meet their boss, Barb–who is fantastic–at the bar, and, with Rom Com awkwardness, Jules spills her drink on a guy with the kind of hairstyle you only see on stars of Bravo shows.
This guy would never even be considered bi in Regular Soho, but turns out to be straight in Soho, Cougar Town. Barb shows Jules what she thinks of Watch What Happens Hair with obscene gestures:
Bless and keep all character actresses everywhere. Jules gets drunk and tries flirting with Bravo Bangs, but slinks off to the parking lot once a couple of youngsters come into the bar and say “I think that chick went to high school with my mom.” She shouts “Stop having sex with babies!” to her neighbor, whom she sees outside with a new young female lover, then comes home to have a mope-snuggle with her boyfriend pillow.
But not for long! Laurie drives by Jules’s apartment with the lead from Flipping Out, and drops him off at her front door, screaming, “You left that at the bar, bitch!” She is a good friend. Jules awkwardly strips down and eventually has sex with one of the co-stars of The Rachel Zoe Project, and afterwards, the two hang out on lounge chairs and talk about how great Jules feels, now that she’s self-actualized into Full-Blown Cougardom. Speaking of full-blown (RIGHT??) an innuendo-laden set-up is soon sold out to what would have been the ol’ sitcom switcheroonie, when Jules gets on her knees in front of NYC Prep and says “I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. I told my husband that I hated it, but I don’t hate it. I love it!”
You’ve seen sitcoms, right? You think that’s a sexually-charged set-up for something she’s going to do that’s totally innocuous, right? Well, it’s not. She says what she said, and then she starts blowing the guy. I know! I know. And then her son walks in, and her ex-husband does too. That’s a spicy meatball!
The next morning, Jules shares some awkward conversation with her son in the breakfast nook, realizing out loud that she wants to “get out there and start doing things,” like blowing dudes on lounge chairs she brings home from bars named after downtown neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Travis, her son, goes to school and is made fun of by his classmates for having a MILF-y looking mom on the real estate signs all over Cougarton, and gets into a fight with the kids who pick on him. He gets in trouble, and when Jules goes in to meet with his principal, she runs into her ex-husband, who’s interviewing for a job mowing the school’s lawn.
Travis predictably has a breakdown, informing Jules that Junior High kids have been stealing her sign to masturbate to, which really ups the ante, because high school is one thing, but boys of Junior High age are colts of a different color, animal metaphor.
This revelation leads to a Big Lebowski-esque turn of events, in which Jules and Laurie run after a squirt they find stealing her ad, and follow him home to yell at him, Little Larry Sellers style. But instead of taking a crowbar to his neighbor’s car, Jules subjects this bizarre little boy, whose bedroom is graced not with photos of Taylor Momsen, but with Jules’s Real Estate signs, to a lecture about how hard it is for her to date. Poor kid.
She also tells him to stop stealing her signs to masturbate to, because it upsets Travis and is weird, and to tell his friends to stop doing it too.
Jules goes home that night to tell her son she’ll try harder to avoid embarrassing him. Travis thanks her and goes out for the night with his friend. Then, Jules shouts, “He’s gone!”, strips off her Snuggie to reveal some kind of slip dress, and her young male lover, from Season Five of Top Chef, ducks out from the curtain behind which he was hiding, and races upstairs to the bedroom for more lovemaking.
The episode ends as it begins, with Jules evaluating her 40-year old body in the mirror. And as she adjusts her breasts in her skimpy black slip-thing, she goes “eh,” with her face, as she did before, even though she is extremely thin and TV-attractive.
The only difference is that Jules, although she still hates her face and body, is at least now, about to have sex. So good for Jules. And good for all of us, too.