April 2, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Cougar Town”


After five seasons, COUGAR TOWN has run through multiple networks (TBS, after ABC) and showrunners (Blake McCormick, following series creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, and then Ric Swartzlander), and it’s achieved a level of comfort that’s increasingly indistinguishable from toothlessness.  That Florida cul de sac where Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox) and her BFFs live is starting to feel like a quality cul de sac of its own.

The Season 5 finale, written by producer Peter Saji and directed by Cox herself (she directed 3 of this season’s 13 episodes), went to the old sitcom well for its main storyline.  It was the one where friends of a couple, that couple in this case being Jules’s son Travis (Dan Byrd) and her (let’s be honest) 2d-to-best friend Laurie (Busy Phillips), find out before the couple itself does that they’re pregnant, just when–awkward!–the couple is in the middle of a fight.  But not to worry, Travis and Laurie remembered how much they love each other just seconds before Jules was going to deliver the joyous news, so there weren’t even any mild undercurrents of tension at the party that concluded the episode.  The B story was even thinner, with Jules’s current husband Grayson (Josh Hopkins) and her ex-husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt) deluding themselves into believing they could compete at breakdancing with some local teens, and the C story had Andy (Ian Gomez), husband of Jules’s true bestie Ellie (Christa Miller), needing a new millionaire client and conveniently discovering just before the closing credits that unofficial regular Tom (Bob Clendenin), the mildly creepy local brain surgeon, had piles of cash.

Cougar Town has plenty of heart and a skillful cast, and there were some nice bits this season, like the reveals that Tom had built a populated scale model of the entire cul de sac (even if that was highly reminiscent of a Raising Hope storyline from a season or two ago), and that Ellie had written part of a Young Adult novel.  Too often, though, the show feels like it’s going through the motions.  Wine jokes–check!  Ellie being rude, but then proving she has a good heart–check!  Andy and Bobby bromance–check!  The season dipped a toe into more weighty waters with Jules’s father Chick (Ken Jenkins) being diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s and moving in with Jules and Grayson, but so far that’s mostly been treated as a vehicle for gentle gags about memory loss.  The big adjustment for Season 5, dealing with the fact that Laurie was now in a genuine romance with Travis, who’d been in high school when the series started, and who she’d known since he was a child, was handled reasonably well, but there’s no getting around the slight queasiness factor, or the fact that Phillips and Byrd had better chemistry together when they were merely being flirtatious and he had a puppydog crush on her than they do as a full-fledged couple.

These days Cougar Town is amiable, not much more.  The same could be said of its ratings, which aren’t anywhere close to the numbers TBS gets from its Big Bang Theory reruns, but in line with the network’s other originals in the 0.6-0.7 18-49 neighborhood.  (Even though networks like TBS make more ad revenue from their rerun programming, there’s important value to being in the originals business, especially when it comes to negotiating subscriber fees with cable providers.)  The signature in-joke title card for the finale ominously asked “Goodbye… For Now?” and probably nuts-and-bolts financial issues like the show’s license fee will determine the answer to that.  On the creative level, a season of Travis and Laurie and the gang going through a TV pregnancy and will-they-or-won’t-they-get-married?, followed by raising a TV baby… this may be a good time to ring down the curtain, before the pleasant becomes merely routine.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."