The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Making the Case for Cougar Town As Best Comedy

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

These days in TV cirticism there is a veritable debate going on about what currently ist he best comedy on the air. The most vocal fans seem to stand in the Community corner, but just because they scream the loudest doesn’t mean they have the best argument.
In another corner are the fans of Cougar Town, and among the biggest fans are the show’s own creators (Bill Lawrence of Scrubs fame and Co.), who staged an impromptu promotion campaign on their own dime and time when ABC left them hanging. And for what it’s worth, I believe Cougar Town might just have the strongest case for who’s the best comedy on TV right now.

What Community and Cougar Town have in common are low ratings. Dismayingly low ratings. And this is a crime I blame squarely on anyone of you who isn’t watching these shows. While I myself could never get into Community because it is just not my brand of humor, I applaud the gusto and daringness of what that show does, swinging for the fences every week, and sometimes (more often than one would like) coming up short.

Cougar Town on the other hand never seems to miss a beat, but is struggling to overcome the stigma of its title and is horribly unsupported by its network. The show wouldn’t even be back on the air yet if it hadn’t been for the abysmal Work It being canceled after two (!) airings, thus freeing up the Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. spot on the Alphabet Network. But now that Cougar Town is back with its third season, it is obvious that the wait of almost ten months has been worth it. The six episodes that have aired so far are the strongest the show has ever put out and it is about time Cougar Town fans reunited and helped the show get over its bad rap.

By no means has Cougar Town always been the best comedy on TV, far from it. The show had to grow into itself and had a very uneven first season. How unfitting the title is by now should give you a hint as to how much Cougar Town has developed, grown and shifted gears. What started out – at least in the pilot – as a forty-year-old divorced woman daring to get back into the dating life again, is now a show about friendship, relationships at any point in your life and a whole lot of red wine.

Bill Lawrence himself has been public about the fact that he was actively searching for a new name, because he was aware that “Cougar Town” had a certain stigma to it that might keep exactly those viewers away he wanted to appeal to. However, the search for a new name has not been successful, so until now the opening credits of Cougar Town feature a sort of “Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard” joke every week, making fun of the title and the attempt to change it. Quite frankly, I’m not even sure a re-naming would help the show, since it might be causing more confusion than clearing things up. And in a land where high school mascots are freely named “Cougars”, I don’t understand some people’s problem anyway.

Let me try and sell you on watching Cougar Town despite its title or what you may have heard: Cougar Town features great acting on all fronts. From Courteney Cox to Christa Miller to Busy Philipps. From Josh Hopkins to Brian Van Holt to Ian Gomez and Dan Byrd. Each of these actors firmly inhabits their character, with all their flaws, idiosyncrasies and genuine emotions. The joy of the show comes from seeing these people interact, across age groups (Laurie and Travis are quite a bit younger) and across “classes” (Jules is a real estate agent, Grayson a bartender, Ellie a stay at home mom). And most of the time, that’s all the show needs to be hilarious and entertaining.

One of the biggest praises I always had for Friends was the fact that you needed nothing more than the six central characters trapped in a room to make great comedy. The same goes for Cougar Town. These seven people can make their own fun and the dynamics between them are endlessly amusing to watch, even when they are being mean to each other for no apparent reason other than Schadenfreude.
Is this group of people a bit dysfunctional? To say the least. And yet everyone seems to love Happy Endings (ugh!), where the dysfunction is bouncing off the walls. So what does that say about you, American TV audience? Dysfunction is alright as long as you are in your twenties or early thirties, but once you hit forty you gotta be all “straightened out”?

I usually judge comedies (and most dramas) by the simple question: would I want to know any of these people in my real life?
The answer in Cougar Town’s case is a resounding YES to every single character. (While the answer for Happy Endings is a similarly resounding NO!)
Furthermore, Cougar Town is endlessly quotable (I constantly find myself saying “Come on!” in that Andy voice or wishing I had a Big Carl to keep me company) and gives its characters actual emotional arcs that lead to development and change (when’s the last time you could say that about Two and A Half Men or Happy Endings?).

And if all of that isn’t enough, let me tease you with the mini-Scrubs reunion that happened at the end of the fifth episode of Season 3. It was epic, hilarious and deliciously meta-fictional. TV comedy just doesn’t get much better than that.
Besides, what else do you have to watch on Tuesday nights anyway? Another NCIS? Really?
It’s time to rise up for Cougar Town, America.

*Andy voice activated*  COME ON!






Need more TV coverage? Listen to the all new “Television Collision: Aftershock“, Episode 1 below.

The podcast accompanying the Television Collison is back!
And it has gotten a make-over.Please lend your ears to the all-new “Television Collision: Aftershock” and listen to Episode 1 below (running longer than usual to celebrate the relaunch).

And because it is a special occasion, this episode features a special guest: TV lover, helpless compiler and Tweeter Les Chappell!

Topics include (but aren’t limited to): The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, The Killing, Archer and many, many more!




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