Image Credit: Buena Vista
I know, I know. Because it’s a show about cougars. Middle-aged women preying on young, 20-something aged men. But that’s where you’re wrong. Sure the show started out as a raunchy sitcom about a recently divorced mother who decided to try out the dating scene again, but after around episode eight of the first season, the writers realized that most people didn’t want to watch a show about a 40-year-old woman having sex with various 20-year-old men.
Granted, I found those first eight episodes to be quite funny, but I was in the minority. No longer is the show centered around Jules’ (Courteney Cox) love life, it is now an ensemble comedy centered around the relationships between the members of “The Cul-de-Sac Crew.”
The Cul-de-Sac Crew, from left: Ian Gomez, Christa Miller, Dan Byrd, Courteney Cox, Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, and Busy Phillips; Image Credit: Buena Vista
Produced by Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, the men behind “Scrubs,” “Cougar Town” found it’s groove about 2/5 of the way into the first season and since then has become one of the funniest ensemble comedies on TV, sometimes even funnier than (dare I say it?) its lead-in “Modern Family.”
Before you harp on me calling out “blasphemy!” I dare you to actually go back and start watching “Cougar Town” from the very beginning and catch up (you have 2 months since it is going on hiatus in order for ABC to test out its Matthew Perry sitcom “Mr. Sunshine”). I think most people would be amazed at how funny the show is (unless you didn’t like “Scrubs” humor, in which case “Cougar Town” might turn you off no matter what). Take this joke about Jules throwing her boyfriend’s words back into his face:
Funny, no? Or maybe it’s just me.
Enough of my praise for the show, let’s get down to why I think the show has dropped from 11.28 million viewers a week to 5.03 million viewers. All in all, it boils down to the name of the show, and the reception of those first few episodes. Today’s audiences are pretty quick to judge whether they like a show or not and “Cougar Town” just didn’t pass with them. As soon as a viewer rejects a show, it is almost impossible to bring it back into his or her good graces.
A name change for the show was even under discussion over the summer to get people to realize that it just wasn’t about cougars anymore (“Family Jules” was my personal favorite as an alternative title idea). One thing the writers have been doing that I find hilarious is inserting self-aware pre-title headers on the title card of each episode. Besides (Still) “Cougar Town” located at the top of this post, there has also been (Badly Titled) “Cougar Town,” (It’s Okay to Watch a Show Called) “Cougar Town,” and (Titles Are Hard)” Cougar Town.”
That being said, it is a pretty funny way and a nice wink to current viewers of the show, but it doesn’t really do much for people who started the show during season one and then gave up. The sad truth is, most of the show relies on in-jokes (just like “Scrubs” did) that new viewers just won’t understand.
Part of this blame, I feel, goes to ABC for not promoting the show very much. I watch all of my TV on Hulu so I can’t speak for the ads ABC does on its own network, but I don’t think I have even seen so much as an online ad for “Cougar Town” since season 2 started. Luckily, ABC renewed the show for a third season last month so any fan’s worries about cancellation after this two-month hiatus have been assuaged. I guess all of us will have to kill time for the next two months playing “Movie Mash-Up.”
You would think that lead-in “Modern Family,” America’s number one comedy, would be able to transfer some viewers over to visit “Cougar Town,” I honestly feel that most viewers that watch only the former show consider themselves above the “low-class” humor of the latter. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I get (I also happen to watch “Modern Family” and love it, so don’t think I’m elitist in my love for “Cougar Town”).
All in all, I think the show can be saved if ABC showed a little bit more faith on it. It is all about how the public perceives the show and how confident the network is in it. But the network isn’t doing anything to show viewers that it believes in “Cougar Town” as much as it does in its critical darling “Modern Family.” Even with reviews for the second season of “Cougar Town” being almost all positive hasn’t helped the Nielsen Ratings. Most of these reviews cited the drastic improvement in quality of the show. Entertainment Weekly even named it the most underrated show on TV.
ABC should try to find an audience for this show. But who should the audience be? Honestly, I think it should stick with its original market of middle-aged women. I searched for “Cougar Town” on Facebook just to see what people are saying about it and most people who seem to like it are middle-aged women commenting on how much the show reminds them of their own lives (not the cougar lifestyle, since there is only one cougar in the show anymore and she shows up for a 10-second spot every other episode). Particularly meaningful to this audience are the moments when Jules shows her (somewhat insane) love for her son Travis, or jealousy over his new college girlfriend. The show has a heart and ABC needs to market that instead of just the goofy scenes.
But as a 22-year-old college student who adores the show, maybe college students are also a viable target audience for the show? It is certainly quirky enough. ABC needs to do something to really push the show to a broader audience. Use Facebook and Twitter like all the other PR practitioners seem to be doing to get things noticed.
Hopefully this post might get some of you to try out “Cougar Town.” If it doesn’t, I suppose I’ll have to enjoy my weekly meetings with the wino group of the self-proclaimed Cul-de-Sac crew for as long as I can. I’ll still be opening a bottle of red wine every Wednesday night, because you just CAN’T watch “Cougar Town” without some red wine in your hand, can you? I even have my own “Big Joe” to drink out of. For those of you who watch “Cougar Town,” you know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, you can just watch the video below.
I’m interested in all of your thoughts as well! Why do (or don’t) you watch “Cougar Town?” Can ANYTHING be done to get you to give it a(nother) try? Sound off below.