Cougar Town: The Complete First Season
Directed by Bill Lawrence et al
Studio: ABC Studios
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 552 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 17, 2010
Review Date: August 13, 2010
ABC accomplished something this past television season that no network had been able to achieve in the last few years: launch three successful comedy series in the same season (and on the same night). Of its three hits, Cougar Town has been the least successful, and a few episodes into the first season DVD set, it’s easy to see why: it’s the brainchild of Bill Lawrence (of Scrubs fame), and it contains his patented comedy style: acres of talk, talk, talk, much of it fueled with putdowns, humiliations, and silliness. It’s my least favorite comedy approach for sitcoms, and even with some superb comic actors spewing out the dialogue, an episode will wear you out with all of the gabbing: the rat-a-tat lines with lots of deadpan line readings and wide-eyed reactions from those to whom the words are directed.
The series began with a premise that explained the current definition of a cougar, a middle aged woman on the prowl for younger, foxy guys. In the case of Cougar Town, the older lady is Courtney Cox playing forty year-old Jules Cobb, divorced from failed golf pro Bobby (Brian Van Holt) who with her successful real estate business must pay her husband alimony and continually interact with him. Son Travis (Dan Byrd), one of those tiresome sitcom children who’s much more mature than either of his parents, is caught in the middle of their various shenanigans. Also engaged in Jules’ hunt for sex partners is her air-headed office assistant Laurie (Busy Philipps), a decade younger than Jules. Jules’ next door neighbors (Christa Miller, Ian Gomez) also figure into her life and that of her ex-husband and son. And finally there is across-the-street neighbor Grayson (Josh Hopkins) who’s Jules’ male equivalent, a divorced man in early middle age landing a new babe every night and sending each one on her way the next morning. But his easy success with the opposite sex and Jules’ relative struggle to get back to dating carry most of the stories for the first half of the season.
The series began a shift in tone around the midway point of the season when it became less about Jules trying to land younger guys and merely about the interpersonal relationships between this large and disparate group of acquaintances. Jules and her ex-husband began exploring their continuing feelings for one another. Neighbor Grayson began to see the vapid quality of his bang-a-babe lifestyle in contrast to what might be with the vibrant, fun-loving, and slightly crazy Jules right across the street. These developments allowed a few notable guest stars to enter the core group’s world: Scott Foley for a few episodes as a love interest for Jules which made both Grayson and Bobby jealous, Sheryl Crow doing the same thing as Grayson’s girl friend who made Jules jealous, and the always welcome Lisa Kudrow as a doctor Jules consults about botox.
The cast performs together very well even though some of the actors are repeating performances we’ve seen so many times before, especially Christa Miller (wife of the show’s creator) whose sarcastic deadpan delivery and total self absorption are identical to the work she did in her husband’s last TV venture Scrubs. Busy Philipps’ dead-head valley girl (even though the show takes place in Florida) wears out her welcome very quickly. Courtney Cox still looks great (as if she’d have ANY trouble finding available male companionship of all ages), and all of the show’s male regulars (Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, Dan Byrd, and Ian Gomez) are comfortable in the skins of the characters they’re playing and interact beautifully together. Their various bromances are the most entertaining aspects of the program.
Here are the twenty-four episodes contained on three discs in the first season set:
1 – Pilot
2 – Into the Great Wide Open
3 – Don’t Do Me Like That
4 – I Won’t Back Down
5 – You Wreck Me
6 – A Woman in Love (It’s not Me)
7 – Don’t Come Around Here No More
8 – Two Gunslingers
9 – Here Comes My Girl
10 – Mystery Man
11 – Rhino Skin
12 – Scare Easy
13 – Stop Dragging My Heart Around
14 – All the Wrong Reasons
15 – When a Kid Goes Bad
16 – What Are You Doin’ in My Life?
17 – Counting on You
18 – Turn This Car Around
19 – Everything Man
20 – Wake Up Time
21 – Letting You Go
22 – Feel a Whole Lot Better
23 – Breakdown
24 – Finding Out
The program is presented on ABC-TV framed at 1.78:1 and in 720p, and these 480p downconverted transfers look very pleasing. Color saturation is nicely delivered, and flesh tones look lifelike and appealing. There’s as much detail to be seen as TV-on-DVD can muster, and with the show being so new, there are no age-related artifacts and just a touch of moiré to be seen. Except for the pilot (which had 3 chapters), each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound design is not very ambitious. With so much dialogue being spouted constantly, it’s important that it be recorded cleanly, and it is, but except for some music cues which are spread into the surrounds, there’s not a lot of activity to engage the rears or the subwoofer.
All of the featurettes are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“Taming Cougar Town” has the show’s two creators and its central cast discussing the premise of the show and its evolution from its original concept. This feature runs 4 ¾ minutes.
There are fifteen deleted scenes which may be watched individually or strung back-to-back. They run anywhere from less than 30 seconds to 2 minutes each.
The show’s blooper reel contains the usual tongue-tied lines and physical stumbles and runs for 2 minutes.
“Saber-Tooth Tiger Town” is a funny takeoff on the show which aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The skit features Cloris Leachman and Shirley Jones and runs 3 ½ minutes.
Josh Hopkins performs in his “My Sexuality” music video which features clips from the show’s first season. It runs 1 ¼ minutes.
“Ask Barb” is a series of nine internet video blogs featuring actress Carolyn Hennesy in her role as the show’s real cougar answering questions in a sexually suggestive “Dear Abby” style framework. Each runs about 1-2 minutes in length.
“Stroke It with Bobby Cobb” is a series of four internet blogs with actor Brian Van Holt (sometimes assisted by Ian Gomez) in his role as Bobby Cobb dispensing advice on playing golf and other words of wisdom from the program’s good ol’ boy slacker. Each runs about 1 ¼ minutes.
There are trailers for ABC’s dramas, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and The Last Song.
3/5 (not an average)
Cougar Town proved popular enough to earn a renewal for a second season, but its dismissive brand of comedy is repetitive and ultimately exhausting. With its new direction for its characters which occurred late in the season, maybe the second season will be less forced with all the acerbic dialogue dialed way down. In the meantime, the first season is now available on DVD with good transfers and a decent set of bonus features to please its fans.