After finishing tonight’s episode of “Cougar Town,” I experienced something I haven’t felt in quite a while with TV: genuine happiness and satisfaction. With few exceptions from “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family,” this television season has been let down after let down, with the only constant being disappointment. But tonight’s second episode of “Cougar’s” new season provided not just laughs, but a question: “Why on earth has this show been off for as long as it has?”
The second episode picks up shortly after the first left off: Jules and Grayson commence on planning their wedding. Er, make that just Jules. Grayson is ushered off with Travis to go see Jules’ father (“Scrubs” alum Ken Jenkins) and ask for her hand in marriage, albeit belatedly. Jules meanwhile tries to pick a maid of honor. Though at first choosing Ellie, she is torn when Laurie requests to be co-maids of honor (or, to quote Laurie, “CO-MOHS”). Though Ellie demands that Jules be more selfish, in the end Jules convinces her that doing things for her friends is what makes her happy.
The thing that makes “Cougar Town” such an excellent show is that it’s hard to pinpoint an outstanding performance or moment, because everything flows together seamlessly and is executed rather well. What is most noticeable about this new season is how happy all the actors are to be there, working with each other and telling such humorous stories. Much like last week’s “green screen” in Travis’ apartment, this week featured Bobby making a zip-line between Jules’ and Grayson’s house. There’s nothing else to describe this but “brilliant.” Really? A zip-line? It’s so ridiculous that it works. Even better, it makes me want to do it.
MVP of the episode goes to Christa Miller, whose hissing-face alone almost overshadowed any other moment of the episode (yes, almost more than Courtney Cox on a zip-line. Which you should still see) She’s so charmingly sarcastic and blunt, and so ultimately sure of herself that even though those qualities are true about her, she can balance her love (a term Ellie would use lightly) for Jules in a realistic and believable way.
The thing that makes “Cougar Town” so great is that you can walk away from it feeling fulfilled. Half-hour comedies are designed to be the perfect break in your day–the perfect amount of time to let everything go and invest in characters that are relatable enough to care about and return to week after week. So many shows have completely overshot this goal this year, or worse, have gone away from this template. But what Bill Lawrence has been true to is sticking to a formula that works, and then completely deviating within it. Every episode feels original and fresh (again, see the green screen, zip-lining, etc). There’s never a question of “will this be a good episode week, or only OK?” “Cougar Town” is the “Must-See TV” NBC hasn’t had in three years.
Welcome back, Cul-de-Sac Crew. You have indeed been missed.
Bethany McHugh is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.