Television networks don’t always treat television shows with the greatest of respect. Money, attention, promotions and primo timeslots are often lavished on crap series (cough“Two and a Half Men”cough) while quality series languish in the background (wherefore art thou “Community”?). Occasionally, though, low-rated shows catch a break—receiving an additional season to wrap up storylines or jumping networks entirely thanks to some sympathetic executives. Take, for example, “Cougar Town.”
The well-staffed sitcom debuted on ABC in September of 2009. After three seasons of more or less mucking up the show—assigning it lousy timeslots, failing to advertise it properly and pulling it for junk like “Man Up!”—ABC sold it off, lock, stock and barrel, to TBS. TBS has been bumping up its comedy credentials in the last few years and looks to be the perfect new home to this underappreciated sitcom.
The show’s fourth season picks up right where the third season left off nearly a year ago. The fine cast is still led by an excellent trio of comediennes: Courteney Cox (“Friends”), Christa Miller (“Scrubs”) and Busy Philipps (“Freaks and Geeks”). The story still revolves around Jules Cobb (Cox), a recently divorced, fortysomething real estate agent trying to relive her lost youth with an irresponsible bunch of suburban Florida pals. Jules is now freshly married to Grayson (Josh Hopkins), a metrosexual local pub owner. Other than that, the dynamic remains the same. Jules dotes on her college age son (Dan Byrd), gets along well with her ambition-free ex-husband (Brian Van Holt), parties with her young assistant (Philipps) and downs as much wine as humanly possible with her scrap-happy neighbors (Miller and Ian Gomez).
The show has never been particularly concerned with plots, and the new season doesn’t try to add any deep narrative. (The pilot episode, for example, finds Jules in a funk over changing her last name.) What works is the ensemble character acting of the seasoned cast. Everybody here looks like they’re having fun. Even the show’s creators are enjoying themselves—cheekily asking in the opening credits if the move to TBS means they can now curse on TV.
Later episodes in the new fourth season feel free to explore relationships among the cast a bit more. Cox’s character examines her smothering relationship with her son. Miller’s character contemplates being nice to her doting husband for a change. Hopkins’ character weighs acquiescing to his new wife against retaining his manhood. There’s some quality interpersonal drama here, but it’s all well-smothered in good-natured insults and half-drunk quips.
Oddly, the show has passed up the prime opportunity to shed its much-mocked title. Feeling the show instantly outgrew its original “middle aged women dating younger men” premise, producers frequently talked about changing the name, and when they couldn’t, they openly mocked it. For whatever reason, the name remains. Thankfully so does the mocking. Bottom line: If you’re a fan of “Cougar Town,” raise a glass. Your show is back—rowdy, drunk, silly and sloppily emotional as ever.