Once upon a time ABC based one of their new comedies on a one-joke series of commercials that featured cavemen living in the modern world. So the fact that they are built a show around a piece of worthless slang (a cougar is an older woman who dates younger men) is somewhat encouraging, we guess. If the first season is any indication, the show is striving to normalize the apparently kooky idea of these older females still being sexually active. Whether the name of the show works for or against that goal is another debate for another time, but what can be said is that Cougar Town has proven to be a sincerely funny examination of one image-obsessed woman living in our image-obsessed world.

Courtney Cox, beautiful at any age and coming off her perplexing run on FX’s Dirt, plays Jules who glides through the episode with a manic energy that leaves the viewer with no choice but to submit and go along for the ride. Everything feels carefree and slightly cartoonish despite a backdrop of issues that don’t necessarily lend themselves to comedy. It’s Scrubs for an older, more repressed set.

The show opens with a scene that any person who has ever dated a woman will instantly recognize. Jules is standing in front of a mirror searching high and low for any imperfection she can find. Is that elbow fat? Why does my stomach look like that? Am I getting wrinkles? Throughout the episode Jules manically frets about her looks, but Cox is such a flawless specimen that even though her mouth is saying she’s in pain, we the viewer have a tough time accepting that.

On the supporting side there is Elle (Christa Miller), the neighbor/sort of best friend, who is to be pitied because she is trapped in a marriage with a very bald fatty. There is also Travis (Dan Byrd), Jules’ son, who seems to have been inserted into the show with a mind for constant professional humiliation being piled high on top of him. If having a milf for a mom, who shows up at school functions making perverse comments, isn’t bad enough, his dad has just taken a job at his school as their landscaper. That means while Travis is outside eating lunch, his dad is out riding on the lawn mower, playing the air drums, hollering at his son to "Hit the Books."

Jules clearly lives well above the poverty line (the swimming pool and real estate job are usually a dead giveaway) so the show has to rely on sex to provide all of the problems in her life. In fact sex saturates every scene, but since this is primetime network fare, it all feels rather lame and neutered. The mere fact that they even acknowledge oral sex and cigarette smoking works to it’s credit. Mostly the characters just lament the fact that they have to engage in sex with their unattractive husbands and whine about their weight. And still, miraculously, at the end of the 30 minutes you feel enlightened as opposed to intellectually drained. Easily one of the fresher entries of last fall’s TV season, there are probably no Emmys in its future, but something this much fun will almost always find an audience.

DVD Bonus Features:

In addition to the typical bloopers and deleted scenes are a featurette detailing the evolution of the series from an out-an-out comedy to a more sexy hybrid. Jimmy Kimmel’s send-up short, Saber Tooth Tiger Town is also here, as is a Q&A session with a real-life cougar.

Starring: Courtney Cox, Busy Phillips, Christa Miller, Dan Byrd
Network: ABC

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