“Makin’ Some Noise”
October 6th, 2010
There’s an interesting duality to Cougar Town: the series is more consistently driven by change than any other television sitcom, and yet at the same time it feels the least vulnerable to the effects of those changes. “Makin’ Some Noise” is about how Jules and Travis each deal with a major change (Travis going to college), and yet it never seems as if those changes will be insurmountable or even that challenging.
Instead, the episode manages to create the sense of real change while also emphasizing that nothing is going to actually tear about this particular cul-de-sac. It’s the best of both worlds, delivering the sense of familiarity we expect from sitcoms without abandoning the real emotions of Travis’ move and its effects on his relationship with his mother (and her relationship with Grayson).
In some ways, there is nothing which really separates tonight’s Cougar Town from tonight’s Modern Family: both episodes deal with the fallout from an event (here Travis’ departure, and in Modern Family’s case an earthquake), and both episodes conclude with things being returned to something approaching the status quo through the use of a montage. However, even looking beyond the presence of a saccharine voiceover in the case of Modern Family which was absent here, the difference is that the event here was connected to previous story developments, and thus its resolution relies on our knowledge of the characters rather than a tidy moral. Things don’t resolve themselves because they need to resolve themselves, they are resolved because Jules is more than someone Grayson sleeps with, and Travis is more than Squarehead, and Ellie and Laurie will always fight with one another. The way the episode ends is not informed by a pattern of previous behaviour, but rather based on real emotions of friendship, family, and a little bit of hatred thrown in for good measure.
It allows for “Makin’ Some Noise” to avoid feeling too pat, as the episode really is a confirmation of the ultimate connection shared by this neighbourhood family of sorts. Travis is initially wanting to define himself independent of his past, but he learns that his family is part of who he is, and can in their eccentricities over an entrance into a new community (thus leading to the decision to call his mother more than once a week). Jules and Bobby, meanwhile, learn this lesson as a way to hold back from visiting and taking over their son’s life with “half and half,” as they do not need to be directly part of his life in order to be part of it. And yet there’s a dynamism: they don’t learn the same lesson, but rather the lessons they learn are informed by the same principle which has been present since the beginning of the series (or, well, from the point where the series got good).
The show, like Lawrence’s Scrubs, is very much interested in the balance between the “silly” (“Wine and Spy” would qualify, as would Travis’ throwing noise) and the “serious” (only really present in the serious turn in Grayson and Jules’ relationship in the episode), but the show goes to lesser extremes in both instances. The show is rarely ludicrously silly, often sticking to the sort of inside-jokey environment that wouldn’t be uncommon among friends, and it has thus far resisted the kind of serious moment which Scrubs’ medical setting allowed it. It makes the show incredibly comfortable, able to handle certain degrees of change without abandoning those elements which make the show work, which is why I think I find the show so enjoyable.
There may be a point where we want the show to delve further into the serious, allowing true change to take place, but the way Travis’ departure is being handles shows the strength of the series’ dynamics. “Makin’ Some Noise” ends with the whole group (minus Travis, of course) jamming out to “Slow Ride,” and although it may be intangible I feel like the episode earned it. In fact, I think I’m to the point where the show as a whole has earned pretty much anything: I’m willing to admit that if Modern Family and Cougar Town did the exact same episode, with similarly saccharine endings, I would enjoy Cougar Town while grimacing my way through Modern Family. Cougar Town’s world has just been so much more clearly defined, allowing it to be more loose with thematic endings or silly subplots.
And, at least through three episodes, the show is consistently dynamic and dynamically consistent, which is the ideal sitcom circumstance in my view.
- If you need me, I’m going to be taking back the sac.
- The show is decidedly simple in some of its storylines: wine makes everything better, for example. See also: giving the group glow sticks.
- Interesting that the show got to do a variation on the struggles of living up to older siblings at university with parents instead: Bobby Cobb is in some ways more a brother to Travis than a father, so it works.
- “Badly Titled Cougar Town” – touche, Biegel and Lawrence. Touche.