Season finale review: 'Cougar Town' - 'Don't Fade On Me'/'Have Love Will Travel': California, here we come
A review of tonight's "Cougar Town" season finale coming up just as soon as I tell you the name of the graphic novel in which I fight a robot for your affection...
"Cougar Town" fell out of the weekly review rotation this season, not because I thought the quality was appreciably worse, but because the scheduling on TBS meant I often wasn't getting to each episode for several days after they initially aired. But even if I were seeing them in a more timely fashion, "Cougar Town" has settled into such a familiar groove that I'm not sure I would have interesting things to say about it weekly. There's nothing wrong with TV comedy as comfort food; it just doesn't lend itself well to this style of commentary.
The two-part finale was a good example of how "Cougar Town" likes to repeat itself, but also just a good example of "Cougar Town." It brought back a variety of familiar running gags and put new spins on them, like Jules' insistence on changing the pronunciations and/or meanings of familiar phrases (I loved Ellie's sad "change approved" after Jules' "Old-Timer's Disease"). It put actors in position to do what they do best, and even commented on it at times, like when Chick finished another patented heart-warming anecdote and said, "Good God, can I land a moment!" It expanded on half-discussed aspects of the characters' backstories, like Grayson's shame-inducing stint as an aspiring actor or Andy's forgotten Cuban heritage (which led to the show's latest Lou Diamond Phillips cameo). The gang went on another trip together(*), and another of Jules' giant wineglasses broke and had to be buried. Nothing the show hasn't done before, many times, but almost all of it done well.
(*) How, by the way, does Bobby afford a trip to either the Bahamas or California? Especially in the same episode where the product integration scene for a noted online car sale site reminded us that he has no money whatsoever?
The one part I didn't love was Travis and Laurie's first kiss. I have no problems with the idea of the couple, even though there's a bigger age gap between the characters than between Dan Byrd and Busy Philipps. And I liked some of the earlier beats of the story, particularly Laurie's reaction to the first stalker video she didn't have to see in a courtroom first. (Philipps' delivery of that line was a thing of beauty.) But after all the buildup, and factoring in the show's usual gift for crafting memorable romantic moments (Grayson's proposal, the beach wedding, Bobby kissing Sarah Chalke), the actual kiss, and the sequence leading up to it, felt underwhelming. Even with the size of LA, it needed to be a bigger, more improbable — and, given the nature of the show, ridiculous — coincidence than just the two of them running into each other while Travis and Tom were auditioning a one-man band.(**) If the show hadn't taken so long for these two to try dating, and if the episode hadn't made such a big deal out of their kiss, I wouldn't have minded, but everything that came before demanded something bigger and better than what we got.
(**) Played by Joshua Radin.
All in all, though, I was quite pleased with the first TBS season. Like I used to say in the show's early days, after it ditched the original premise and settled into its hang-out groove, you just want to let "Cougar Town" do what "Cougar Town" do. And it still does.
What did everybody else think, of both the finale and season 4 as a whole?