At the beginning of Cougar Town’s fourth season premiere, Jules (Courteney Cox) says, “I honestly thought we might never be in this kitchen again.”
Fans feared the same thing. With low ratings on ABC, it was looking as if the third season of Cougar Town would be its last. But, thankfully, before there was even time to panic and launch a “save our show” campaign, TBS picked up the comedy for a 15-episode season.
The best news is that the wine-loving, penny-can-playing cul-de-sac crew is back in fine form. If you didn’t know the show was on another network, you wouldn’t know the show was on another network. “Blue Sunday,” which was directed by Cox and written by series creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence, felt like the same show viewers have come to love.
“Thanks TBS. Can we curse on TV now?” appeared under the title in the opening credits. There wasn’t any cursing, and even the storyline that involved Ellie (Christa Miller), Andy (Ian Gomez) and a dose of Ambien didn’t seem any raunchier than usual. (Remember what Travis walked in on his mom doing in the show’s pilot?)
And the fundamentals of the show were hilariously in place. Jules makes up new meanings for clichéd phrases (she’s decided “junk in the trunk” means you have emotional baggage, a change which Ellie approves), the gang drinks more wine than anyone should (“Wow, are you guys all alcoholics?” Travis wonders) and, underneath all the hijinks, the show hits on some real truths of adult relationships.
Jules and Grayson (Josh Hopkins) are now married. Ellie warns him that whatever you do in the first few weeks of marriage sets a precedent for the rest of your relationship. Later, Jules is mad at Grayson for something he did in her dreams. People who are in long-term relationships may find both of these scenarios quite familiar.
Jules is panicking about how fragile relationships are and how much she wants her marriage to Grayson to succeed. She is, much to Ellie and Laurie’s (Busy Philipps) horror, feeling a little blue. Ellie tries to warn Grayson that Jules is miserable and that if she’s miserable pretty soon everyone else will be too. But Jules had explicitly asked Ellie not to say anything to Grayson. This leads to a frank discussion between the friends on how Ellie can’t insert herself into Jules’ relationship.
Bobby, who is sporting a questionable new hairstyle, imparts some dubious wisdom on Travis. “Never a bad idea to run away from your problems,” he tells his son. As always, Travis remains the most mature one of the group.
But Travis uses his dad’s advice and runs away from Laurie when she wants to talk to him about his drunken confession of love. It’s an interesting conundrum the comedy has set up. We now know Travis is 21, so it would be acceptable (I guess?) for Travis and Laurie to have a relationship. But Travis is still much younger than Laurie and has loved Laurie since he was a teenager. Plus Laurie is his mom’s friend. A romance between the pair seems wholly inappropriate and would put the “cougar” back in Cougar Town. Yet somehow I am still kind of rooting for the two to get together. Lawrence has said that the writers’ room is divided about which way to go with this storyline, so it will be interesting to see what plays out this season.
A few other random thoughts about the episode:
• It was great to have Nicole Sullivan back as Jules’ therapist. “You still make a lot of life decisions based on what Tom Cruise would do.”
• There are some recurring jokes that just work. I will never tire of dog Travis.
• There are some recurring jokes that are better in small doses. I’m not sure we need to see more of Tom.
• The show needs to be careful that it doesn’t overplay the gang’s love of wine. Or, like Travis, we will all begin to wonder if they are alcoholics who belong on Shameless.
• Bring back Bobby’s old hairstyle. Please.