While Cougar Town is hardly about the mountain cats of the American west, there’s no lack of predatory romantic stalking here as Courteney Cox and her sitcom crew sink comic claws into each other’s hearts.
Back for a third season, this ABC sitcom stars Cox as Jules Cobb, a 40-something divorced mother up against the humorous challenges, pitfalls and rewards of her life’s next chapter, with her boyfriend Grayson (Josh Hopkins), who began as her too-flirty neighbour from across the street.
At the time it was filmed last autumn, no one had any idea the first episode of the new season, Ain’t Love Strange, would be broadcast in North America on St Valentine’s Day. But the serendipity wasn’t wasted.
“In the first episode, I get engaged. It was done in such a creative, fine, beautiful, romantic, funny way,” says Cox. “I just saw it for the first time since September of last year when we shot it, and I cried. It’s really sweet and I love it. The show’s funny, but it can have these moments of heart that just get me.”
Of Jules and Grayson, she says: “This is a mature relationship. They approach it maturely, but they’re really different people. He’s very dry and not game for everything … and she’s game for everything.”
“I was really surprised how fast our characters got together — and stayed,” says Hopkins. “Really, it’s pretty genius. If you look at the landscape of TV and how sort of cliché, will-they-won’t-they, it’s gotten … On Cougar Town, it’s pretty nice to explore the comedy of an actual relationship and not the almost-relationship. It’s been fun.”
Jules’s dysfunctional but caring extended family, “the cul-de-sac crew”, includes: next-door neighbour Ellie (Christa Miller), her sarcastic, unapologetic confidante; Ellie’s average, but loveable husband Andy (Ian Gomez); Laurie (Busy Philipps), her younger, feisty protégée; ex-husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt), a classic underachiever who tests her patience; and Travis (Dan Byrd), her dry and witty son who more often than not is the adult observer among the crew.
Although Cougar Town was co-created by Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, the Golden Globe-nominated Cox and her husband David Arquette — from whom she separated in October 2010 — also serve as executive producers and maintain a close friendship and business relationship.
As a working mother with a young child, Cox dotes on her seven-year-old daughter Coco — whose godmother is Jennifer Aniston — and takes pride in the fact that the Cougar Town set is a family-friendly one during long production days that can stretch 12 to 18 hours or more, five days a week.
“Coco comes down all the time,” says Cox. “She has her little jobs on the set. She works with craft services, the wardrobe department. She gets her hair and make-up done. She’s kind of spent the last two years of her life down here.”
Professionally, Cougar Town has also allowed Cox to grow and hone her directorial skills.
“I direct the fourth episode this season and there’s a standoff between the cul-de-sac crew and these little boys who are riding their bicycles through our lawns. It seems so ridiculous, but it’s so funny. And then we do this take-up of Braveheart. That’s my favourite kind of stuff, when we do off-the-wall things — but they’re grounded somehow … they’re based in heart.”
She adds: “I love doing the show. I hope it keeps going forever. Well, I won’t say forever and ever … but for many more years.”
But Cougar Town could soon be history; it is currently stuck on the bubble, still awaiting news of a possible pickup for a fourth season. The vibes are not good.
E! News reported a few weeks ago that Hopkins has already been cast in a new pilot for NBC called Lady Friends. Byrd has signed a deal for a new as-yet untitled CBS comedy. Should ABC decide to renew Cougar Town, however, Lawrence is confident that both men have clauses in their new contracts that will keep them on Cougar Town and force NBC and CBS to recast the roles.
On the hoary old topic of a Friends cast reunion or movie — the popular series ran from 1994 to 2004 — Cox remains keen but hardly optimistic: “It’s crazy not to do a Friends movie, but there’s no update.”
•? Cougar Town returns for a third season on Thursday and is broadcast on Thursdays and Fridays on OSN Comedy. First- and second-season reruns can also be viewed daily on Star World HD
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