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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
COUGAR TOWN (ABC)
(Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30c starting this fall; TRT: 23:24)
The network's description: "Courteney Cox stars as a recently divorced single mother exploring the honest truths about dating and aging in our beauty and youth obsessed culture."
What did they leave out? The show's title, in addition to the obvious, also refers to the mascot of the local high school.
The plot in a nutshell: "I know I'm one of them, I'm just not 'one of them'," single mother/real estate agent Jules (Courteney Cox) explains to her son Travis (Dan Byrd) and pal/co-worker Laurie (Busy Philipps) about the bevy of single women of a certain age around her that have taken up dating younger men. You see, five months after divorcing her layabout husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt), she still spends her Friday nights drinking wine and playing Scrabble with her best friend/neighbor Elle (Christa Miller, being Christa Miller) before curling up with Jonathan, her bed pillow. Life however is about to give her a push: Elle's husband Andy (Ian Gomez) actually wants to have non-quickie sex, derailing her standing Friday date with Jules, and Laurie's decided to spice up Jules's yard signs, creating a surprising fan base.
Plus there's her neighbor - and fellow divorcee - Grayson (Josh Hopkins) who has rubbed his latest cradle robbery in her face for the last time ("In a hoody, really?" she fumes after spotting his latest conquest. "I mean if you want her to think you're that young why don't you just wear those PJs with the feet on them!"). Yes, boys and girls, it's time for Jules to get out there. And so with Laurie at her side, Jules hits the club and reels herself in Matt, a much younger man - only to find herself paralyzed at the prospect of the rest of her friends and family finding out. Laurie however will have none of it and literally delivers Matt to her doorstep. "We had sex three times without you needing a nap or pills or anything," she beams after closing the deal. Now if she can get over the embarrassment of Travis and Bobby walking in on her "thanking" him.
What works: I can't get over how great it is to have Courteney Cox back doing comedy. She brings a vulnerable, sweet edge to what could easily be a neurotic, overprotective basket case of a character. From her snap judgments (Jules: "You can't wear fake nails on just one hand. You look like a crazy whore." Laurie: "Well I only had four left and this is the hand that I smoke with.") to her uncensored thoughts (she asks Travis is he's aware his math teacher got new boobs) to her unnecessary threats (Jules: "If I ever catch you two drinking and driving, I'm going to show everyone that baby picture of you two holding each other's penises." Travis: "You know Ryan's mom just says goodbye."), Cox makes Jules a woman that's spent too much time in the shallow end of the pool and is terrified at the prospects of heading to the deep end. All she knows is being a mom (she actually offers to make Matt a snack when he comes over, considering that's what she does for all of Travis's friends) as getting knocked up at a young age robbed her of the lessons we usually learn in our 20s. Helping Cox out is a decidedly awesome supporting cast, ranging from Van Holt's loser Bobby (Jules: "I can't believe I married you." Bobby: "Yeah, that was a bad call.") to Byrd's frequently embarrassed Travis (Travis: "Junior high kids are stealing your signs. Do you know why? Because they're using them to pleasure themselves." A flattered Jules: "Really? [catches herself] I mean, really?"). And it wouldn't be a Bill Lawrence show if there weren't a healthy dose of pratfalls, tripping and late-1970s needle drops (in this case, Foghat's "Slow Ride"). All in all, a great cast, a fun but still grounded concept and a consist stream of laughs. Comedy is making a comeback this year folks.
What doesn't: Obviously the idea that Courteney Cox is spending her Friday nights alone is a little far fetched but credit Cox, Lawrence and company for making us buy into Jules's journey.
The bottom line: This might be my other favorite new half-hour this season.