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Formative TV Experience No. 10: The Balls of Leather Tuscadero
John Leonard: One-Year Anniversary

The Case For, Against, and Around Cougar Town

  • 11/2/09 at 6:00 PM

Here's my essay denouncing Cougar Town (and placing the sitcom in the historical context of television cougardom) in the current print issue of New York.

Here's my earlier blog post defending (sort of, while ranting against) Cougar Town.

And here's a thoughtful essay by Willa Paskin on Double X, which doesn't exactly denounce my denunciation, but does argue that the show has greater potential than I'm giving it credit for.

Mainly, she suggests there's a problem with me comparing Sex and the City's Samantha to Cougar Town's Jules in the first place. Jules, she points out, is less a failed cougar than a wannabe — not unlike, Paskin argues, the many real-life women who identify with the "cougar" movement, but who "are fascinating because their self-professed confidence jars with their constant need to identify themselves as part of a trend, their obsession with appearance and youth, and a sexual ethos modeled on the unattractive behavior of crisis-ridden middle-aged men and immature twentysomethings." In other words, if the show showed true insight into the real Real Housewives, it would indeed have a terrific, very modern subject on its hands, one hard to recognize so far because, despite appealingly zany gags, the "show isn't hitting all its marks."

It's an interesting question: Can you make a show about delusional, insecure women without playing into stereotypes? As I've said on this blog, I think The New Adventures of Old Christine pulls off this trick far more successfully than Cougar Town — and Absolutely Fabulous hit that satirical button brilliantly, with characters who managed to be at once pathetic and emotionally real. I'm a little shocked that the people who made Scrubs created Cougar Town, because I always thought the former was very smart about its female characters. So far, I'm unconvinced Cougar Town can bring out what Paskin sees inside it, but I'll certainly be hate-watching on Wednesday again, hoping (and fearing) I'll change my mind once again.