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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love for Cougar Town ain't strange

ABC's Cougar Town returns this week with "Ain't Love Strange," the long delayed season three premiere. Jules (Courteney Cox) asks Grayson (Josh Hopkins) to always surprise her. In that vein, he "sharks" her car, and stages an elaborate ruse that leads to her TP-ing a vacant house, where he gathers her friends and proposes. Shocked and happy, she accepts. Meanwhile, Ellie (Christa Miller) and Andy (Ian Gomez) worry their son is a monster, while Bobby (Brian Van Holt) tries to get Travis (Dan Byrd) to take custody of Dog Travis.

It is hard to express in words how great it is to have Cougar Town back. It's also hard to express how much this series needs to stay on the air. So, before delving into the episode's details, here is a passionate argument to watch the show, and tell your friends about it. It's not about an older woman hitting on younger guys. Its hasn't been since, like, episode five. Yes, the title sucks, and everyone involved in the show freely admits that. But it's kind of like Friends, but with much more drinking, and more relatable characters. Plus oodles of friends-as-family love.

Not only that, but the creators, cast, and crew have worked their booties off these past months to promote the series in every way possible, from becoming active on twitter en masse, to staging viewing parties across the country where they even picked up the bar tab! The dedication and love of this series among the types who make it is unprecedented, and for that alone, they deserve a second look from those who are dismissive of the initial premise. It will be well worth your time, guaranteed.

Now to "Ain't Love Strange." All of the best comedic elements are back, full force. This week's running gag is that Jules is highly predictable, and over and over again her friends prove that to her. What they realize, though, and what Jules doesn't, is that predictability isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's good to have someone to count on, and whom you share affection with. Which makes even the funny parts of Cougar Town incredibly heartfelt.

Grayson singing the Jules morning routine song is hilarious. Their romance has blossomed naturally and with grace over the past couple of seasons. While some shows may put off hooking up two major characters, Cougar Town boldly went for it in season one, and the fact that things have worked out so nicely speaks volumes for the writing and acting talent on the show. Ending "Ain't Love Strange" with Grayson's proposal is extremely rewarding for those who have invested time in this couple's relationship, characters and viewers alike. A+

Andy and Ellie's child, Stan, has been mostly ignored thus far in the show's run. But now he's come back with vengeance, acting out in serious ways. Is this a cry for attention from his often-imbibed, always-with-their-friends parents? Or is it a deeper problem? Does it matter, when the sight of a young child walking down the street with a hammer, malicious intent implied, is freakin' funny?

But, of course, there is great character development to this story, too. Laurie (Busy Philipps), who has slowly been backing off on hating Ellie, compliments her parenting. It's a real, genuine moment between the two. It's been clear that Laurie kind of likes Ellie for awhile, and spending time playing with her child sort of backs that up. Laurie isn't the type to be overly affectionate, and their bickering is one of the joys of Cougar Town. But that doesn't mean there isn't a sisterly type of bond between them, as well.

However, why is Laurie wearing an ankle bracelet? Is that story she told about her fight the reason? And how come she can still hang out all of her favorite places with it on? Isn't the point of one of those things to monitor people on house arrest? Jules's house and the vacant property could be contrived as work related, but what about Grayson's bar?

Finally, Bobby gets a little father-son interaction. What he shares with Travis is special, and the two have a good relationship. Sure, sometimes there's a bit of a reversal on just who is the wise, nurturing one, but it works for them. Bobby is trying, and that really shows. It's hard for him to ask his son for a favor, like taking his dog. But Travis is willing to do things for his dad, so it's all good.

Cougar Town is back in high form, and should definitely be watched. It airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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