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My Cougartown Problem — and Ours

  • 10/7/09 at 9:42 PM

I am being tortured, tortured in my own workplace.

I sit next to a writer named Adam Sternbergh and this writer, an otherwise decent Canadian type, will not stop talking about Cougartown. COUGARTOWN! "Cougartown!," he keeps chanting as I try to complete very serious and important television reviews. "Cougartown is so funny. I'm going to write a piece called 'The Case for Cougartown.'"

Bear in mind, this is an individual who doubted the quality of early 30 Rock, a man who made such a strong case for the HBO angst-fest Tell Me You Love Me that I was afraid he would have a big beige aneurysm.

The only joke he could describe in Cougartown struck me as totally unfunny. His claims that the ex-husband was amusing and that the structure (one 20something friend, one 30something friend) was clever had no purchase. Also, even he had to agree that it made no sense that this woman was waiting to have sex for TEN DATES with a vapid young man that she wasn't even trying to get into a serious relationship with.

So I watched last night to confirm that it was a terrible, terrible sitcom, just like the last two episodes I'd watched (I need to watch shows I hate frequently to justify denouncing them.)

You can imagine how annoyed I was to like the episode.

I mean, I didn't like-like the episode. I was still irritated by the whole premise, which is that Courteney Cox is this sex-obsessed-but-also-oddly-prudish recently divorced lunatic who spends all her time making self-deprecating jokes and bantering with the sexist pig who is obviously her future soulmate, occasionally shrieking and popping her eyes and doing nervous situps. She's a cartoon outta Cosmo.

And yet, and yet... Some of the jokes were actually good, even small ones, like her neighbor's husband murmuring "Hello, Clarice" at a bagel. That "paper buddy" soulmate banter was actually working for me. And I miss Sex and the City like a long-lost friend, so let's just say I'm open to mismatched ladies sitting around a kitchen table talking dirty, or the slapstick possibilities of a simultaneous pedicure and bikini wax, even a horny old woman bragging about her vaginal rejuvenation therapy. The minor characters are starting to cohere, like Cox's mommy friend who can't bond with her baby (although Sternbergh, the ex-husband is not funny! And it makes zero sense she's ever been married to him, but anyway...)

I still think the sexual politics of this show are insane. First of all, why are grown people in an uncommitted fling behaving like Donna and David, with all the platonic mini-golf dates then suddenly BOOM intercourse. Who does this, let alone wait ten dates? And if they're dating in this rules-girls intimacy-building way, why are they also talking to one another about sex like it's an abstract athletic performance, ratable one to ten? And frankly, why is this kid even interested in her? She's pretty, but she shrieks a lot, and he's basically a big blurry chest with bambi eyes and no personality, and I've had enough with the "my back aches" jokes. She's 40, not 70.

That said, I am now committed to watching this thing to the bitter end. Maybe because I like it, maybe because I hate it, even I can't tell anymore. But you know, I guess I need something to argue about, even with myself, or Canadians with questionable taste.