During the third season of Cougar Town, then still airing on ABC, Jules (Courteney Cox) lamented the lack of consistency in scheduling by wondering aloud if the cul-de-sac crew would still be all together and around next fall. “What if some new group comes in?” She said. “People will be like ‘They’re not so good.’ And sadly, Jules was right. ABC declined to renew Cougar Town and instead bestowed upon comedy fans a setback in genre with The Neighbors. But such self-aware humor was saved when TBS announced they were picking up Cougar Town, gifting us with the fourth season right after the holidays. It may be months since we have seen the cul-de-sac crew, but jumping back into life with them makes you feel like no time has passed at all. Despite their new location, they are still the same witty wine-drinkers we have come to know and love. And being on a cable network, at a slightly later hour, has only allowed them to elaborate further on the adult in-jokes that have made them a fan favorite.
Cougar Town’s fourth season premiere picks up only a week after Jules and Grayson (Josh Hopkins) were married at their beachfront ceremony. Big Lou (thankfully) is still doing well, and Ellie (Christa Miller) is still meddling wherever possible, as usual, as well. This leads Jules and Grayson to their first tiff as a married couple, when it becomes a rule that anything he does more than once becomes a “precedent” set for their married life. Suddenly pouring your wife a glass of wine before dinner goes from being a sweet, loving gesture to a mandated nightly event. Meanwhile, Travis (Dan Byrd) tries desperately to avoid having to actually talk to Laurie (Busy Philipps) about his drunken confession in Napa. See? Same old gang, just new channel.
Cougar Town is not out to change too much, but it is advancing all of its characters to prove there are arcs in place, and this isn’t just a typical situation-of-the-week comedy. While you can make cases that little by little Laurie has matured (she’s in a relatively serious relationship, after all), and Ellie has come out of her hard shell (she’s always there to help, even if it comes with snarky commentary), this season Cougar Town is also utilizing more of the crew by letting the audience get to know Tom (Bob Clendenin), too. And just wait until the episode where they flash back and explain how the gang even became friends in the first place!
Cougar Town is a show that has always had so much fun with itself, it makes it impossible for the audience not to have fun, too. There isn’t anything groundbreaking or revolutionary happening in its season premiere, but it delivers solid laughs and the warm feeling of actually being surrounded by friends. In today’s viewing world full of cynics and critics, that kind of consistent, “comfort” television is a feat unto itself.
Cougar Town premieres on TBS on January 8th 2013 at 10 p.m.
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