Johannesburg - A lot of us missed out on Cougar Town (2009-2015) when it first aired because it seemed to be about Monica from Friends (1994-2004 – all 10 seasons are on ShowMax) playing an older woman who’s humiliated by her failed romantic encounters with younger men.
And that’s simply not true...
Fortunately, it turned out to be a lot more like series creator-producer Bill Lawrence’s earlier series Scrubs (2001-2010 – all 9 seasons are on ShowMax) in that it focusses on kooky adult friendships, good intentions and bad judgement.
Our new crazy best friends are “The Cul De Sac Crew” – divorced mom and estate agent Jules (Courteney Cox), her sweet, stupid pro-golfer ex-husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt), their grown-up son Travis (Dan Byrd), Jules’s neighbour and (pretty soon) new boyfriend Grayson (Josh Hopkins), Bobby’s best friend and Jules’s neighbour Andy (Ian Gomez), his vindictive wife Ellie (Christa Miller) who’s Jules’s best friend, and Jules’s work assistant Laurie (Busy Philipps).
It’s educational, too! Cougar Town has so much to teach us, like….
1. First impressions stick
You can change your name but if your first impression sucks, you’re stuck. Nobody on the production team liked the Cougar Town name. So from season 2 the title sequence tries out alternative names for the series, including “We Pretend Cougar Town Is Called Wine Time”.
2. Listen to your partner
In Season 1 episode 23 Jules transforms Grayson’s serious relationship lecture: “Jules, sometimes in a relationship you have to do things that you don't want to do,” into a techno number that she dances to while she makes him eat those words.
3. Nobody’s that handsome
Everyone has at least one physical feature to pick on. In season 1 episode 17, Ellie casually nicknames Grayson “Tiny Eyes”. You can’t un-see it, and it becomes a running gag in the show.
4. The truth is a weapon
Simply make a gun gesture with your hand, point it at someone’s head and demand that they tell the truth. But be careful or you could get caught in the crossfire of a truth-gun shootout like the emotional bloodbath in season 2 episode 7.
5. Drink responsibibbly (ha ha!)
Grown-ups celebrate by sharing a glass of wine with their friends. Jules has the perfect glass for such restrained occasions: Big Joe holds 1,3 litres (a regular wine bottle holds 750 ml). She replaces it with Big Carl in season 2 episode 2.
6. Dress for the occasion
This applies to casual as well as formal situations. In season 3, episode 2 when Grayson goes horse riding while wearing skinny jeans, his tiny eyes make that pinched expression even more fun.
7. Explore alternative therapies
Grayson walks in on Ellie fake-murdering Andy in season 3 episode 2 because he let the ice cream melt. “Now when I get so mad that I want to kill him, I just do it,” explains Ellie. They’re still happily married and not dead at the end of season 5. Whew!
8. Friendship is worth the work
Season 4 episode 7 reveals how difficult it is to get into the Cul De Sac Crew – just ask creepy neighbour Tom (Bob Clendenin). But it also shows that Jules succeeded in stitching the crew’s friendship together - a bit like an insane doctor - by sheer persistence.
9. Go ahead, be an idiot
If Cougar Town shows you anything, it’s that it’s probably more fun not to be right all the time. There’s nothing like trying a wild idea, like when Bobby becomes charming con man Ron Mexico in season 4 episode 3, Andy plays out a Jaws (1975) scenario in season 5 episode 4, or when Laurie kisses Ellie on the mouth at a school meeting in season 5 episode 7…and doesn't get frostbite.
10. Simple fun brings folks together
Penny Can is the best thing that Bobby has ever created. The basic rules are simple – toss a coin into something like an old coffee can from a set distance away. If you make the shot, you get to celebrate your own awesomeness.
The victorious cry of “Penny Caaaaaaan” as you land the shot changes to a robotic monotone accompanied by a robot dance if you land three in a row. Rules are revealed throughout the series, so see the following episodes for twists:
• Season 2 episode 5: Truth Or Penny Can is introduced
• Season 3 episode 5: The Racing Stripe rule is added
• Season 4, episode 4: Balc-Penny Can (‘balc’ as in balcony!) makes things harder.