Death of a sitcom

Published: October 27, 2010

Television behemoths “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “Frasier” and “Will & Grace” made the 90s the official decade of the situation comedy. The half hour sitcom format has, this last decade, changed, evolved, one may say, at the very least adapted, to a great extent under the tutelage of Ricky Gervais and British mockumentary “The Office”. The new breed of successful sitcom tends towards following the mockumentary format, and has included “30 Rock” and more recently “Modern Family”. While critically acclaimed, their viewership is nowhere near the sitcoms that preceded them, with “30 Rock” settling in at about 5 million viewers, as opposed to the 50 million who tuned into for “Friends”. The traditional format, which tended towards using lovable protagonists, a more formal visual set-up, and aiming for flat out laughs, rather than the more modern notion of edgy, ambivalent awkwardness, is dead in the water. With “Cougar Town”, we are invited to its wake.

Picked up, shockingly, for a second season which premiered recently, “Cougar Town” attempts to cash in on what popular culture has deemed the latest dating ‘’trend’’. While the 90s were epitomised by Bridget Jones — the thirty-something single girl, in possession of an urban family, a semi-career and a French skillet that she would never master — the new millennium brings with it the coupling of the successful, affluent 40-something divorcee and the younger man. It comes with the ugly, derisive, predatory term ‘cougar’, which goes to tell you, more than anything else, that some ninety years after women won the right to vote and some forty years after the advent of the contraceptive pill, the idea of a woman trying to control her destiny is still viewed with a sneering contempt.

That said, sneering contempt is all that is deserved by “Cougar Town” and its portrayal of modern sexual mores. Springing from a school of thought that considers any display of intelligence pretension, “CT” is a repellently crass look at a financially successful but intellectually bereft divorcee Jules (Courtney Cox) who scandalises her equally provincial friends by re-entering the dating scene and trying her hand at younger men. As an attempt to ham-handedly draw attention to double standards, her neighbour Grayson (Josh Hopkins) is a forty-something who dates one young girl after another, with no qualms and no societal disapproval either. That he is portrayed as an infinitely more attractive character than the protagonist does not help the argument. The show follows Jules’ dating misadventures, along with her attempts at raising her teenage son alone, in order to give her character some appearance of depth, with motherhood ever the shortcut to proving that one is a ‘good person, really’. Perhaps the only amusing moment so far has been Jennifer Aniston’s cameo as an obnoxious, two-faced therapist, reminding one that Aniston is so much better at playing petulant and vile rather than the bland girl-next-door she’s been condemned to on the big screen. As for Cox, if dating in ones 40s is really a matter of obsessing over the appearance of one’s elbows and eternally waiting for the phone to ring, then I, for one, am least surprised by her continuing singledom. Age has come to “Cougar Town” without bringing with it smarts, self-awareness or even a dash of sophistication. Jules is a character consistently told by well-meaning friends to learn to love herself, yet not one convincing reason is provided as to why.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • shobz
    Oct 27, 2010 - 3:01PM

    I am sorry to say but the Writer has done a really bad of researching “Cougar Town” before she wrote this review. For starters only the series Finale of Friends got a 50 million plus audience. Cougar Town was initially supposed to be centered around Courteney Cox and her adventures in dating younger men. Bill Lawrence (creator of the series) decided to change the theme after he realized that the sitcom was more suited to be an ensemble piece. They even thought of changing the name of the sitcom but could not come up with a suitable title. It is a great sitcom which is more about adult friends who hang out in their cul-de-sac. Maybe the first four or give adventures were about her dating misadventures but the theme of the show has totally changed. The writer of this article should at least watch the entire first season before making her judgement. It seems she didn’t bother to watch more than 3 episodes and wrote the review. Recommend

  • Oct 28, 2010 - 5:20AM

    My name is Cyndi Targosz and I am the author of DATING THE YOUNGER MAN (Adams Media) and a Celebrity Life Coach + comedic actress. When I first watched Cougar Town, I too was disappointed. However, I agree with shobz in that it has evolved into a wonderful ensemble cast show. My philosophy is that of ageless love. I do not bash older men but instead promote the concept of expanding dating options. Men have been able 2 date both older and younger 4 ages – why can’t women?!!
    Personally, I do not like the term “Cougar” and neither did the majority of the 1000 men and women who I surveyed while researching my book. Say what u want, but the term is predatory. Fortunately, the show’s title is just that – a title. The Courtney Cox character and the surrounding cast are a delightful mixture of personalities. Together they demonstrate in a humorous manner all the vulnerability that can happen while searching for love and fullfillment in this millennium. Everybody has insecurities. We are human. As Cox’s character struggles to find herself and perhaps a soul mate it is fun to watch her evolve. We can see her discover that she can be sexy, single and sensational and find fulfillment in life with the help of her son and a few good friends with or without a partner. For that our dear Jules gives all men and women hope. I say- make a date with “Cougar Town”…. I still hate the title!!! :) Shh! My Cyndi’s Secrets! BTW- an aside to shwbz—if u work on the show or in a field that relates to this topic, I’d love 2 chat with u! Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 28, 2010 - 9:16AM

    I am at a loss, really… at a loss as to what frame of mind the writer was in, at the time she decided to trouble her pen for writing a review which is totally biased against a show that is not as bad as portrayed by her. I would second the opinion of shobz and would recommend the writer to at least watch the season and then review the show. Recommend

  • Akifa
    Nov 15, 2010 - 8:15AM

    OMG I’m so glad this has been said Cougar Town is heinous Recommend

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