Cougar Town – “Everything Man”

“Everything Man”

March 31st, 2010

I feel as if “Everything Man” was written as some sort of ridiculous joke, fitting for the night before April Fool’s Day. My point is not that the episode wasn’t funny, but it seemed like the writer drew three things out of a hat and had to turn them into an episode, or perhaps it was the result if an improv session; they asked for a location and got bathroom, they requested an object and got talking toilet, and they asked for an occupation and got photographer.

I thought the episode had the signs of something that never quite fit together, trying to force too much action into that enormously large bathroom  and never quite bringing together the separate storylines, but the show was having so much fun with its individual parts that I can’t really hold it against them. While some shows try to pretend that they’re more cohesive than they really are, Cougar Town knows when it’s forcing things, and that self-awareness goes a long way to keeping an episode like “Everything Man” moving; the impressive thing, really, is that it ends up a fairly nuanced investigation of the show’s romantic tension by the end of the half hour.

I love that there’s a show where Sheryl Crow starts singing at the end of it and it feels like something perfectly logical instead of something highly contrived. This is a show that has a rhythm to it, and Grayson’s musical interludes have been a fun part of the series thus far, which allows for Crow’s harmonizing to just sort of settle itself into that rhythm. It’s a nice cap-off to a storyline that really spoke to both the show’s current storyline (Grayson entering into a relationship for the first time since his wife left him) and some long-term character roles that the show has sort of been subtly adjusting as the season as progressed.

In some ways, “Everything Man” proved something quite substantial: I don’t think that Jules’ behaviour was that far removed from the more aggressive Jules earlier in the season, if we were to isolate it from the rest of the episode, but because Jules’ behaviour was less disruptive and less driven by the idea of dating younger men or concern over aging, it worked. Jules’ love of her bathroom was silly without being broad (yes, that’s possible), and her desire to help people came through as knowingly smug as opposed to naively misguided. Cox is capable of playing this sort of broad comedy, but it seems like the show is now much more capable of knowing what to do with it. I’d go so far as to argue that if the show had started with episodes like this and eventually sent Jules after young men, it would have actually worked, and the early backlash against the show might have never existed.

The Grayson story worked really well here: sure, they went pretty silly in terms of how far Grayson went to be comfortable in the relationship, but the photos were hilarious, and that Jules’ advice was so honest and realistic about their unresolved sexual tension (“treat her like you treat me”) was the sort of approach that cuts through that silliness. Josh Hopkins had a lot of fun playing the “pursey-whipped” Grayson, but he also was strong coming to the realization that he can’t change himself to try to make the relationship work, and the show didn’t try to use Sheryl Crow beyond her acting abilities. It started from a really silly place, but it ended at something quite complex as Jules deals with providing Grayson happiness in a way that’s subtle, and which doesn’t make it seem like her world is about to fall apart. This is a show that has drama without being dramatic, which is exactly the sort of subtlety you want from a sitcom like this.

As for the rest, neither the Travis or Andy stories really came together, but Dog Travis remains a revelation, the photos were a lot of fun in the various sequences, and a talking toilet (and the “No” Button) was an easy highlight. This is just a show that does the little things so well: something like Laurie trying to find an easy reason to hate Crow’s character and landing on her watch was just really well executed, and the show knows it. They know that everything didn’t come together perfectly, and while it ends on a montage of everyone settling their differences and coming together for a live musical performance, it was still an episode with a giant bathroom where you can’t touch the towels, and the show remains proud of that fact.

Cultural Observations

  • Courteney Cox has made me laugh plenty of times on this show, but “It’s like I don’t have teeth no mo” made me laugh a great deal more than usual for some reason.
  • Bobby remains a really great utility player for the show: his complete deconstruction of the claim that it’s like a Bathroom from a fairly tale (“I can see a princess copping a squat in here”) was sheer elegance in its inelegance.
  • It was really distracting to see the security guard from Scrubs’ ninth season pop up as the tile guy here: I liked Gerald as a sounding board for Jules, and it worked well in the end, but seeing Lawrence move over one of his cast members from that show to this one felt like the worlds colliding more than did Scott Foley doing double duty, for example.
  • You know it’s the little things when Jules’ decision to demonstrate her ability to roll her Rs with Molly Ringwald gets a laugh out of me.

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