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Sunday, January 12, 2014

I'll Take "All" of COUGAR TOWN

Article first published as I'll Take "All" of COUGAR TOWN on TheTVKing.

TBS's Cougar Town began its fifth season this week with "All or Nothing." I hesitate to call it TBS's, though, because it seems so unlike the rest of the TBS line up, much more toned down and intelligent than the goofy stuff the network usually runs. But then, it wasn't created by TBS, just rescued by it, so I guess TBS deserves credit for keeping a great thing going.

"All or Nothing" picks up an unspecified short time after season four's ending, with time spent making direction connections to last year's finale. For some, this may seem unnecessary and forced, but I get what Cougar Town is trying to do, keep the flow of story going. After all, there are things that happen late last year that we want to see explored, not picking up many months later, and this installments makes sure we know those revelations are still fresh.

The big change the cast is dealing with is that Travis (Dan Byrd) and Laurie (Busy Philipps) are now dating. This means the pair are making out and having shower sex in Jules' (Courteney Cox) house, which Jules has the unfortunate habit of walking in on, repeatedly. It makes everyone, especially Jules, very uncomfortable, and throws off the dynamic of the group.

"All or Nothing" focuses on Jules trying to deal with the situation. She's a trooper, keeping in mind these are both people she really likes and doesn't want to chase them away. As such, she bends over backwards, trying to accept things that just are not acceptable, being 'cool' with what's happening. She doesn't do it very well, but at least she tries.


I'm glad Jules gets her adaptation story, which is absolutely necessary, but I'm disappointed at the very small part Laurie plays in "All or Nothing." She is only seen wanting to constantly be all up in Travis' business, never on the other side, as the friend in the group that she has been. It makes sense that she's totally into the physical stuff, as that is in keeping with her character from earlier seasons. But she is also one of the adults, and has been for quite some time, and we don't see her chemistry with the rest of the cast here. She is the one straddling two difficult roles, and I hope that will be dealt with soon.

This may finally be how Travis joins the larger gang, though. He has always been an outsider at the fringe, occasionally roped into the principal story, but often off on his own. Fans of Cougar Town tend to like Travis, too, and by putting him with Laurie, it gives him a reason to want to hang out with his parents and their pals, strange as that might seem. This could be a good turning point for his character.

Bobby (Brian Van Holt) seems completely unbothered by his son's new circumstances, but then, little ever bothers Bobby, which is part of his charm. This comes into play this week as Bobby begins reaping cash from international sales of Penny Can and Grayson (Josh Hopkins) tries, subtlety at first, to get Bobby to pay his very large bar tab (which has spilled over into a second notebook). Dense as Bobby is, it takes him awhile to figure out what Grayson is asking for, but he does resolve the issue in true, lovable Bobby Cobb fashion.

I am all for any chance to see Grayson and Bobby bond. They share an affection for Jules, Bobby's ex-wife and Grayson's current spouse, but don't have a lot of alone time together. In "All or Nothing," their thread is solely about their friendship, something that has nothing to do with Jules, really, and it's nice to see that explored.

The other plot in this episode involves Stan (Griffin Kunitz) having trouble sleeping after Andy (Ian Gomez) lets him watch Nightmare on Elm Street. This story reinforces the Andy / Ellie (Christa Miller) dynamic, and provides a fun way to work their seldom-seen child into the mix. Plus, another great, amusing resolution at the end.

Not really a subplot in of itself, but we get more Tom (Bob Clendenin) in the episode than usual. His upgrade to regular cast member is well deserved, but I like how Cougar Town doesn't just seek to fold him into the ensemble, as that wouldn't be appropriate for his role. The more that is revealed about Tom, the more creeped out by him the characters and viewers alike get. It'll take some serious adjustment time before Tom is really wanted around by anyone. However, he's still a great character, and well used.

"All or Nothing" makes a slight misstep in the handling of Laurie, possibly because there isn't time for it, but other than that, is a return in keeping with the quality of the rest of the series. I love the group chemistry and the things these characters get up to, and find the jokes in the series quite amusing. All of this continues in fine form.

Cougar Town airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

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