I know this goes against my whole "Let's write 3,000 words about how the commedia del arte relates to some shitty three-camera sitcom!" persona around here, but sometimes all an episode of a TV comedy needs to be is really, really funny. The story can have issues. The acting can be patchy. The direction can be non-existent. But if the jokes are there, and they're clicking, that's sometimes all you really need. On a show like Cougar Town, where the characters are so well-established, it's doubly cool to just get a really strong, really funny episode because you know it's going to mean spending time hanging out with some great characters, watching them do their thing. I don't know that "Little Girl Blues" is a truly great episode of Cougar Town, but it's a screamingly funny one, and that tempts me to just spend the rest of this review running a list of quotes and funny sight gags.
But that's not what we get paid for here! We get paid to soldier on! So let me say that I was pleased this episode stuck with the relative simplicity of the recent string of episodes the show's been putting out. There was a lot going on, but almost all of it tied back to the central plot device, which was the arrival of Travis' new girlfriend, the 23-year-old Kirsten, a grad student Travis has met while away at college. He's brought her home to meet his family because the two might be going to her family's house for Thanksgiving. Jules, already on edge about her son having a girlfriend who could be daughter-in-law material (as she's warned all girlfriends from now on must be considered), doesn't take kindly to this, of course, and the rest of the half hour largely consists of Jules being mad, Laurie trying to calm her down and/or give Kirsten the weapons to fight back, and Ellie trying to get Jules all wound up.
The relationship of these three is so well-defined at this point that all the writers need to do is introduce a catalyst half the time, and Kirsten's a good catalyst. As played by solid comic actress Collette Wolfe, she's a girl who's clearly a little taken aback by how nuts her new boyfriend's mother is (not to mention all of the people who hang out around his mother's house) but still desperately wants to make everybody like her. It's an old, old way to play this material, but Wolfe made it fun, and by the time she and Laurie were teaming up to help her call Jules a "townie ho," the whole thing was headed in some uniquely Cougar Town-y directions.
But the other storylines spun off of this central idea very nicely as well. Take, for instance, the fact that without Jules' house to hang out in, everybody starts hanging out at Grayson's house, something he's none too pleased about. Or the fact that Travis is nervous about the fact that he was messed up on cold medicine the first time he slept with Kirsten and has no idea what he did to make her so pleased with his sexual prowess. Or the fact that Travis turns to the other guys as his advisors in this matter (despite the fact that two of them have slept with his mom, so, gross). All of these ideas spin so naturally off of the central idea that you barely even notice the show has the usual huge number of plots ramming around because they all kind of feel like the same plot, which is the story of what happens when Kirsten comes to the cul de sac. (As it turns out, there's a lot of singing to greet her arrival.)
But, OK, I mentioned this episode was really funny? Now's the part where I give up talking about the story and just talk about what was amusing. Grayson and Ellie's invisible hat/invisible clown nose thing? Funny. Bobby's attempts to sleep in a hammock? Also funny. The phrase "Cobbstopper"? Very funny. Grayson running around with a skunk? Something that would ideally be worked into every episode. Andy confirming that Grayson's butt was as cold as he said it was? The stuff hilarity is made of! Grayson's sex advice making Travis compare him to Ted Bundy? Also funny! Devoting the entirety of the tag to a funeral for a giant wine glass? Definitely not something you'd see on most other shows.
I realize that it sounds like I'm being sarcastic with all of that, but I'm really not. I'm the king of coming up with bullshit reasons to justify my love of something, but sometimes, funny's just funny, and that's good enough. As mentioned, I thought the story of "Little Girl Blues" mostly worked, in that it didn't get in the way of the jokes, but the jokes were so plentiful and so consistently funny that it wouldn't have mattered if the entirety of the episode had been the characters locked in a room, tossing one-liners at each other. There were a couple of rough spots in the early going this season, but Cougar Town is rapidly shaping up into one of TV's two or three best comedies with this recent string of episodes. It's a shame that more people aren't watching because what the show's doing this season is really terrific. (And, honestly, if you've been thinking about taking the plunge, this would be a good episode to start with. It doesn't require a ton of foreknowledge, and most of the jokes will be funny, even if you haven't seen the show before.) Another good show, Cougar Town.
- I usually watch Modern Family while writing this thing up. (Good episode tonight, I thought.) Did anybody see that ad for that new Nutcracker movie? Because that was absolutely terrifying.
- I like the way the show continues to incorporate characters like Kylie or Tom, bringing them back again and again, even if it's only for a line or two. One of the best things about Scrubs was the way that it gradually built up this huge bench of recurring characters, a group of characters that could be brought in for a gag or two in just about every episode, if need be. This show is starting to do that, and it's exciting to see the ensemble beyond the ensemble begin to take shape.
- I, too, will miss Big Joe, but I think his replacement actually holds more wine, so that will probably end up being a win-win for Jules. That said, it's been a while since I had to calculate the volume of a cylinder, so I could be wrong here.
- "I know how important your mom is to you. I see her picture every time I'm in your bed."
- "It's Kirsten, but you can call me whatever. I hate that I'm singing."
- "Then, one of them's gonna convince Travis to yank your feeding tube out!"
- "I'm winding you up like a toy robot and letting you go."
- "Am I part of the gang now?" "Calm down. We'll see."
- "I only shave my legs to swim faster."
- "I feel like you're being nice to me, even though you are doing it in a scary, threatening way."
- "I've had it while brushing my teeth."
- "Travis, get down here and have a glass of wine!"
- "Your uncle Joe is dead, but you're allowed to start drinking."