Cougar Town: “Ain’t Love Strange”

It’s not often that a single scene succinctly captures a show’s core identity. Cougar Town’s third season premiere accomplished just that—in its closing moments, as Grayson proposed to Jules amidst a toilet-paper-strewn yard.

A scene that began as a goofy caper transitioned into sneakily heartfelt moment, made all the more moving by its unexpectedness. The surroundings underscored the whole thing in one of the cleverest uses of setting I can recall seeing on a sitcom. One minute, the TP’d trees were a juvenile prank; the next, they were celebratory streamers, the backdrop of a beautiful event.

Cougar Town: "Ain't Love Strange" - Courteney Cox & Josh Hopkins

The graceful transition from silly to sweet to genuinely affecting was impressive. But it was also a heightened version of the trick Cougar Town pulls off week in, week out. It captures the rhythm of friendships and love as delightfully as any show on the air, the balance between maturation and regression, between supporting each other and poking fun at each other, often all in the same interaction.

Which is why it’s a shame that it remains so poorly rated, not that ABC has done the show many favors.* If you’ve avoided Cougar Town—especially if you’ve avoided it because of the completely anomalous title, the only significance of which now is to fuel self-effacing jokes—I really urge you to jump in and give it a chance. While its zanily distinct sense of humor (very much in the same vein as Scrubs, co-creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel’s previous show) isn’t for everyone, it probably appeals to many more people than have tuned in.

*First, leaving the show off the air for 14 months**, in which time the network saw fit to give air time to Work It. Then, scheduling the show Tuesdays at 8:30 EST with the preposterous lead-in of Last Man Standing, which is like chasing a Miller High Life with a bottle of pinot. 

**Don’t think I haven’t seen those promos, ABC, where you say “Cougar Town is finally back!” You don’t get to say “finally” when you’re the reason it’s been off the damn air so long!

Other notes: 

  • That green screen has to be a running joke this season, right? PENNYCAN on the moon!
  • “Jules’s Slightly Longer Morning Routine Song.”
  • “Shhhhhharked it!”
  • “Stop being so precisional.”
  • “Just when I thought you were going to zig, you zig.”
  • “Course some devil-babies are just devil-babies.”
  • “It’s a little weird how much thought you’ve put into it.”
  • “You know how susceptible my brain is to other people’s thoughts.”
  • “Dude, how often is your mom going to come over?” “Probably more often than I’d like.”

-Originally published at The Vast Wasteland, Feb. 19, 2012

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