“Keeping Me Alive”
October 20th, 2010
At this point, Cougar Town is sort of like a history lesson.
This isn’t to say that I had forgotten that Jules and Bobby were once married, and that the former has been paying alimony to the latter, but it hasn’t played a role in the show’s storytelling since the Cul-de-Sac Crew came together. We’ve just sort of accepted Bobby as a fun guy who lives on a boat, and since finances have never been a major concern for the show it’s not as if there’s any real question of whether the alimony will make or break the show.
Rather, it becomes the latest in a series of investigations which return to a storyline that could disrupt the series’ dynamic and then prove that it is not going to actually disrupt the series’ dynamic. And while I do think that “Keeping Me Alive” is pushing the pattern a bit too heavily, and the show will have to introduce an actual storyline at some point, there’s enough to keep this episode grounded for me to continue to sing the show’s praises.
There really is a pattern forming: disruptive storyline is dealt with through mature conversation with a liberal sprinkling of Penny Can, and Busy Phillips ends up having an emotional speech that tugs at our heartstrings. It’s a perfect formula, at the end of the day: there’s some nice flowing comedy as per usual, but there’s also the sense that things are “real.”
I was surprised to see Smith return, actually: I presumed they would write the character out of the show, and have Laurie dealing with being single. Instead, the storyline plays out as it would in real life: there’s a visit to pick up some things, they fall back into bed together, and they have to deal with no longer being together. Of course, while Smith is still around, we’re in this for Laurie’s response, and so that final scene with Andy and Grayson just works perfectly: there’s an element of comedy, certainly, but Busy Phillips quite easily turns it into something very different, something honest in a way that the occasionally absurd show is somewhat surprisingly good at.
I think the same goes for the Bobby storyline. We’ve seen these sorts of sad glimpses into Bobby’s life before, whether it was the fact that he still wasn’t quite over Jules or the idea that he too is concerned about his son. Van Holt is very capable of making the character simultaneously clueless and charming, and I thought that this story spoke nicely to that. Ellie’s comment actually creates a crisis of pride, which becomes a liability with his diving mishap, and then the result makes perfect sense. His relationship with Jules has a lot of baggage, and so anything other than legal obligation or casual friendship creates tension that bothers Bobby more than it bothers Jules. Jules is fine having not forgiven Bobby, but Bobby isn’t comfortable not being forgiven, and I think that dynamic was given more depth by this hour.
Of course, it didn’t actually change anything, which is going to catch up with the show at some point. While its lead-in, Modern Family, has no interested in ongoing character development, Cougar Town seems to be, but is moving at a very slow pace this year. I think there is some value to this, as the laidback rhythm of the show is stronger than ever, but I do think we’re reaching the point where we need something new. This wasn’t a spectacular half-hour, and didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know, but there were enough moments of emotional honesty and enough recurring comic storylines that I’m still satisfied.
- I WANT to keep writing about the show, because I think people should be watching it, but there’s not a whole lot to say about half-hours like this one.
- I will pay cash money for a Competition Penny Can Can.
- Yet another fun title card, with 100% Cougar Free – what happens when they run out of Cougar jokes? Or is that a trick question, since you can never run out of Cougar jokes?