THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Television review

‘Cougar Town’ falls prey to already-stale cliche

Courteney Cox (left) is a divorced single mom and Busy Philipps is her hard-partying co-worker in “Cougar Town.’’ Courteney Cox (left) is a divorced single mom and Busy Philipps is her hard-partying co-worker in “Cougar Town.’’ (Michael Desmond/Abc)
By Joanna Weiss
Globe Staff / September 23, 2009

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

‘Cougar Town’’ begins, in fairly promising comic fashion, with a shot of a woman examining her arms, her torso, the area around her belly button, grumbling at the amount of squishy flesh she can grab with two fingers. That woman is Courteney Cox, and in a subsequent scene, she flings open her robe to show a teenage boy her bra and bikini underwear, and that extraneous skin seems to have magically disappeared. (At any rate, the boy seems suitably impressed.)

Therein lies the problem with ABC’s new sitcom, which premieres tonight at 9:30. Cox is a funny TV presence with self-deprecating charm, but she’s not an everywoman, and she’s certainly not a stand-in for a population of women that is experiencing the aging process in real time. And so a show that’s meant to be a meditation on gender, age, and insecurity is, instead, a vehicle for marveling at the amazing sculpting power of the Hollywood workout routine.

“Cougar Town’’ is set far from Hollywood, in a Florida town - the high school mascots are the Cougars, har har - where Cox’s character, Jules, is a divorcee with a teenage son and a real estate business. Because she spent her 20s married with a kid, she’s inexperienced about the courtship process, and frustrated that men who date younger women are praised by their friends, while women who date younger men are mocked.

Women have the power on ABC’s “Eastwick.’’ Page 29.

That’s the cougar rallying-cry, and as a pop culture concept, it’s already feeling stale. Besides, it’s unclear that Jules even fits in the category; the lustful older women mocked in “American Pie’’ and on “Saturday Night Live’’ are well into their 40s and beyond, but by my math, Jules is in her mid-30s.

I know this because she tells a potential date in a bar that “I was 19, I started thinking with my coochie-cooch, and then, bam, I had a kid.’’ There’s plenty of dialogue like that in tonight’s premiere, and while it’s meant to represent women talking frankly about sex, it comes off as women talking awkwardly about anatomy. When Jules stops her car short in one scene, Busy Philipps, as her younger, hard-partying co-worker, shouts, “Give a girl a warning. My uterus almost shot out!’’

“Cougar Town’’ comes from Bill Lawrence, the impresario behind the hospital sitcom “Scrubs,’’ another show filled with sight gags and slapstick moments. Both shows present a funhouse world where people don’t behave precisely as real people do.

But where “Scrubs’’ managed to plumb some truth about medicine and camaraderie “Cougar Town’’ is less funny, and sometimes kind of creepy. Cox jokes with her son - a lot, too much - about how much she wants to have sex with his schoolmates. She harangues her divorced male neighbor for dating younger women: “Stop having sex with babies!’’ she shouts at him, when she spies him bringing a young blonde home. And then when you see her in a halter dress with dipping cleavage, you wonder what she could possibly be so angry about.

Joanna Weiss can be reached at weiss@globe.com. For more on TV, go to www.viewerdiscretion.net

COUGAR TOWN Starring: Courteney Cox, Busy Philipps, Christa Miller

On: ABC, Channel 5

Time: Tonight, 9:30-10

Latest Entertainment Twitters

Get breaking entertainment news, gossip, and the latest from Boston Globe critics and Boston.com A&E staff.