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Formative TV Experience No. 6: Paul Gross in Slings and Arrows
Dollhouse Returns

The New Adventures of Old Cougars

  • 9/25/09 at 3:09 PM

You want cougars? I'll give you freakin' cougars.

For any woman over 40 (a.k.a. me), this television season has been an embarrassment of bitches. Cougartown launched with a graphic sequence of Courteney Cox tweaking her aging flesh in the mirror as if it were coming off in her hands in chunks, à la Poltergeist. Eastwick suggested that small-town folk would be appalled by the sight of elderly Rebecca Romijn making out with a hot young stud (rather than, say, fetching video cameras). I haven't actually seen Accidentally on Purpose, but it looks like more of the same: nails as talons, jokes about squeezing buns, that horrible mrrrowr sound. Mommies Talking Dirty has officially become the 2009 equivalent of the Rapping Grandma.

It's a particularly sad trend given that a genuinely funny "cougar" show already exists: the undersung New Adventures of Old Christine.

For anyone who hasn't watched the series, it's a solid little sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a self-centered, wine-addled, grandiose, yet self-loathing, divorcée, Christine Campbell. With Elaine Benes–like bumptiousness, Christine is endlessly tumbling into bed with idiots or humiliating herself in front of the snotty moms at her kid's private school. She has an equally loser-ish brother and a preteen son. She has a fraught relationship with her ex, who has problems of his own and is involved with a younger woman also named Christine (and Christine's ex isn't treated, as on most of these shows, as a meathead accessory, but has a developed comic persona.)

Louis-Dreyfuss is totally brilliant on the show: She kicks ass with every pratfall and she gives the character's neurotic appetites — for wine, sex, status — a weird integrity. She's funny, not "wacky," and when the show is kicking on all engines, the character combines the misanthropic force of Larry David with the self-delusion of those Absolutely Fabulous chicks. Better yet, there's no sassy sentimental undercurrent, no faux-empowerment speeches (or any that aren't instantly undercut): She's a slapstick fool, not a rom-com sweetie pie fated for true love.

I just saw the first episode, and it was good: New Christine (daffy and deadpan Emily Rutherford) has left Richard at the altar, Wanda Sykes's Barb is in legal trouble, and while trying to rescue her, Old Christine insults a flight attendant and gets thrown into prison herself. Here's a decent clip from an earlier season. Try to ignore the annoying laugh track.


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