We’re starting to get more and more announcements about renewed shows, so it’s only natural to start wondering about the fate of Cougar Town. My advice? Drink some wine, tell as many friends about this show as you can, and enjoy whatever episodes are left. Tonight’s episode sets in motion a few plots that could be resolved by season's end but could also function as a series end as well. If Jules and Grayson can get married, if Andy can become mayor, and if Holly can be fully incorporated as an accepted (if not full-time) member of the cul-de-sac crew, that seems like a solid end for the show. I mean, the program straight up solved racism tonight in “Southern Accents,” so how much more can it possibly have left in the tank?
I kid, of course. Not just about the end of racism but about being chill about the potential end of the show at the end of May. Creating a TV show that people love means running the risk of creating a show that will break peoples’ hearts once it’s left the airwaves, and Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel have created just such a show here. This isn’t a case like Fringe, in which established events have to fully play out to their logical conclusion onscreen lest fans feel cheated. Getting more Cougar Town isn’t about learning the show’s ultimate endgame. It’s about spending time with characters we really like. So while I can easily imagine Ellie as the First Lady of Gulfhaven, I know I’d sure as hell rather watch it unfold.
The potential of Andy Torres as Mayor fits in with this season’s overall theme of pushing its characters toward the next plateau in their lives. It’s a fairly slight plot unto itself, with the show floating the idea of his candidacy in the way it floated the idea of Laurie’s bakery a few weeks back. But it’s a smart move all the same, because it gives Ian Gomez’s character something to actually do this season. Of all the characters on the show, he’s the most well-adjusted, which is fine but also a little dull. Other than the occasional “Come on!” or a Braveheart tribute, Andy hasn’t had much to do this season, other than support the craziness of those around him. And while I don’t expect a Parks And Recreation-level of local politics coming down the pipe, I am interested to see how his aspirations affect himself and the others in the group.
Andy’s aspirations kick off thanks to Jules’ decision to have her wedding to Grayson on the beach. Well, it turns on that Gulfhaven doesn’t allow such events… unless of course you are the mayor. Roger Frank (Barry Bostwick) returns as Smith’s father Roger Frank, now mayor of the town, in addition to new husband to Barb. I know! Smith references! Barb references! Holy flashback, Batman. Seeing Barb as a married woman is a fun throwaway joke, but also a small reminder of how much the show has pushed its characters forward while simultaneously moving away from the central conceit buried in its title. In any case, Andy’s ambitions dovetail nicely with Jules’ dream wedding, so the future Mrs. Grayson Ellis and Laurie convince him to run with platitudes both genuine and, well, Laurie-esque. (She first wants John Mayer to be Mayor, and then notes that Andy’s baby-like face would look adorable kissing other babies.)
When Laurie is not helping Andy come up with photo ops, she’s helping Bobby work through some of his more unfortunate, unintended racism. The show toes a dangerous line with Bobby sometimes, because while he has advanced somewhat this season due to his relationship with Angie, he only did so emotionally. Intellectually? This is a guy who will still eat a bread bowl the wrong way, and will assume all Asians really would enjoy a cake in the shape of a camera. He doesn’t understand that he’s racially profiling people in insensitive ways until after realizing he’s hurt them, but doesn’t know how to prevent future slip-ups.
As such, Laurie stages a meeting with all of her minority friends: Andy, Sig, and Wade, her Twitter boyfriend introduced in this season’s fourth episode. “Today, we’re going to fix racism,” she announces. “Hopefully before our burgers come.” It’s a tour-de-force for Laurie, and by extension Busy Philipps. (At this point, just assume I say, “Give Philipps the Emmy!” every week, since I’ve been typing it out constantly these past few reviews.) Not only is Laurie’s advice and “triumph” hilariously delivered, but it’s something of a marvel how this intervention brings together so many little elements introduced this season. I enjoy how Sig has simply given into the nuttiness of the cul-de-sac crew, risking a bad grade on an engineering final just so he can giggle when Andy refers to himself as a Latino.
Sig is something of a stand-in for the audience, albeit unintentionally. He’s a character that rolled his eyes at the actions of Travis’ parents and their friends at first, but now honestly enjoys their company. Sure, their actions and outlooks seem odd at first, but it’s nothing that a little wine and Penny Can can’t easily solve. And while Sig has accepted the crew’s idiosyncrasies, Jules has learned by episode’s end to look past Holly’s idiocies and accept her as a part of her life now. Travis’ hook-up with her feels like Cougar Town going down some unfortunate narrative territory, but instead punctures Jules’ heightened anxiety about Holly’s presence in the life of both herself and Grayson.
Ultimately, “Southern Accents” is about the ways in which these people accept each other as much for their shortcomings as for their strengths. It’s easy to accept Bobby when he’s drawing faces on his belly and eating muffin balls. But it’s much harder to keep him around when he’s scaring off Krazy Kakes customers with his flippant remarks about dunking. Ellie’s withering sarcasm is fine when directed outward, but not when it comes at the expense of crushing her husband’s dreams. And Jules’ need to help everyone out looks selfish when she keeps others at bay. None of these problems are particularly epic in scope, but they are just like the speed bump Andy installed on the street: You forget about how much they can affect you until you receive a face full of (metaphorical) iced coffee.
- At the risk of heresy, I declare the “Pig Trials” bumper to be superior to the Scrubs-centric one in “A One Story Town.” It felt like a writer’s room bit, but also felt like Jules defending her intellectual turf against two rivals. This exchange—“What’s the maximum sentence?” “Bacon!”—probably made me laugh harder than anything the show’s done since it invented Tom Cruise Running.
- On a related note, I asked Bill Lawrence if “Pig Trials” was a writers’ room bit that made it onscreen, and he told me the entire sequence was improvised on set by the actors. Which makes me like it even more.
- Holly has “super bimbo strength.” You hear that, The Avengers? HOLLY SMASHED!
- Stan leaves food for the Manhole Monster, who is his best friend. I find this funny, but also worry Pennywise the Clown is down there.
- Jules’ Word-Of-The-Day calendar wasn’t as strong as her consistent lack of pop culture knowledge, but was worth it for her mispronunciation of “superlative.”
- “Thanks for the ice cream… and the tongue party.” Man, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that… well, I still wouldn’t be able to go out and buy my own ice cream.
- Because it’s worth quoting in full: “If there’s anything we’ve learned from Michelle Pfieffer in Dangerous Minds, or Sandy Bullock in The Blind Side, or Hilary Swank in that movie nobody ever saw, is that all you need to fix minority problems is a really pretty white woman.”
- “It’s like my life is flashing before my eyes. I should have drank more wine!” Life lessons, courtesy of Cougar Town.
- Other random things I liked: Laurie’s threat cakes, Jules’ new hatred of cinnamon, the strength of Laurie’s laptop screen, Travis goading Grayson with an old-timey announcer voice, Jules and Travis having the same hug techniques, and Ellie’s absurdly long list of demands should Andy win the mayorship.