The first season of Cougar Town is now available on DVD, and I’m glad, because it provides a great reason to reconsider the show.
The original concept, Courteney Cox as a divorced woman dating younger men in Florida, has been thankfully left behind, along with the use of the vaguely sexist “cougar” to describe the type. (Ostensibly, the name comes from the high school team, the Cougars, but as one of the creators of the show says in the featurette, “No one’s ever said the word ‘cougar’ on Cougar Town.”) Instead, the show has developed into a funny ensemble piece, exploring how adults interact in middle age.
Christa Miller (Scrubs) is the longtime best friend and next-door neighbor, married to Ian Gomez (The Drew Carey Show, Felicity) with a new baby (which thankfully isn’t seen much, keeping attention on the adults). Busy Philipps (Freaks and Geeks, Love Inc.) is Cox’s co-worker at her real estate firm, representing the younger perspective and providing someone for Miller to fight with. The standouts for me, though, are neighbor Josh Hopkins (Swingtown) and son Dan Byrd (Aliens in America). Hopkins’ character started as a living example of gender hypocrisy (when he gets divorced, no one thinks twice about him sleeping with girls half his age) but has since become friend and love interest, a much stronger role.
My quibbles are those typical of Hollywood. For example, I wish Miller hadn’t frozen her face in order to appear younger. It’s a bit creepy at times. And there’s an early emphasis on proving Cox is still hot (= thin) by showing her in lingerie, at the same time we’re asked to pity her for being alone (= divorced mother). The Barb character, a ridiculous caricature who got all the “horny older woman” jokes once the focus started changing, thankfully has mostly disappeared from the show. (No reflection on the actress, Carolyn Hennesy, who does a good job with what she was given.)
The characters are a bit sex-crazed, but that’s balanced by the underlying air of deep friendship. The early episodes were all about sex and body image (sometimes to the point of Too Much Information), but as time went on, the show developed into something less crude and funnier. I know Modern Family is the hot domestic sitcom, but I enjoy this one more, because the people are goofy enough to be funny to watch but also seem like people I could know and like hanging out with. (Even if they’re all borderline alcoholic.)
This three-disc set contains all 24 first-season episodes (fun fact: all the show titles are Tom Petty songs), plus these bonuses.
- The five-minute “Taming Cougar Town”. It’s described as “Discover how Cougar Town has evolved from its initial comedy pilot into today’s more subtly sexy ABC hit,” with several participants talking about “celebrating women in their 40s”. It compares what the show was originally intended to be — focusing on a single woman over 40 interested in dating younger men — to how it became a more general sitcom about “family made up of friends” as the season went on.
- 15 deleted scenes, running about 10 minutes
- Two minutes of bloopers, more of a gag reel
- The “Saber-Tooth Tiger Town” parody from Jimmy Kimmel Live with Cloris Leachman and a foul-mouthed Shirley Jones
- Josh singing “My Sexuality”, as a music video recut to scenes from the show
- Ask Barb, nine website “video blog” clips making sex jokes
- the similar “Stroking It With Bobby Cobb”, four clips making fun of the dumb golf pro
That’s not many extras, which is a shame — I would have enjoyed a couple of commentaries. Seeing the creators talk on the short featurette made me want to hear more about their perspective and how they’ve adjusted the show over the season. They were apparently considering renaming the show, given how increasingly irrelevant the title had become, although they decided not to. I wish they would; I nominate “Friends With Benefits”. (The studio provided a review copy.)