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Worst TV Show of the Week

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Cougar Town on ABC


Courteney Cox has had a checkered career as an actress. First coming to prominence in the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” Cox performed journeyman work in various productions for the next decade, until being cast in the part of Monica in the wildly popular sitcom Friends.


Unfortunately, it’s pretty much been downhill for Ms. Cox since then. Though she has appeared in various movies (perhaps most notably, against the smarmy Adam Sandler in Disney’s abortive attempt at a Sandler-style comedy, Bedtime Stories), her biggest part has been the lead role in the disgusting FX series Dirt. In that show, which she co-created with her husband David Arquette, Ms. Cox played Lucy Spiller, a sex-obsessed editor of a sleazy celebrity tabloid magazine. As is typical of FX fare, storylines focused on the bizarre sexual fetishes of the characters, with occasional violence thrown in. Viewers of this bit of video detritus had the twisted thrill of seeing “Monica” masturbate with a vibrator, exchange discussions about bondage with her mother, and jump from bed to bed with a variety of men. But apparently, few viewers availed themselves of this odious opportunity; Dirt was cancelled midway through its second season.


Now, Ms. Cox is starring in Cougar Town, a story about – you guessed it! – a promiscuous woman. The twist this time is that Cox’s character Jules is apparently hideously unattractive to men her own age, so she decides to pursue less choosy younger men for her amorous encounters. Cougar Town’s seamy focus on sex caused the show’s first episode to be named Worst TV Show of the Week; and the episode of October 14 (9:30 p.m. ET) earns the program this dubious distinction a second time.


The episode bizarrely opens with Jules chatting on the phone with her friend Ellie. When Jules asks what Ellie is doing, her friend replies, “Foreplay.” Indeed, Ellie is engaging in sex with her husband while casually talking on the phone with Jules. When her husband demands more of her attention, Ellie says she will call Jules back “in a few minutes.”


Meanwhile, Jules orders her ex-husband Bobby to clear his possessions out of her house. Doing so, he stumbles on a videotape he made years ago of himself having sex with then-wife Jules. She snatches the tape away from him, stating, “You’d just show it to all your friends.” Not wanting her intimate life with her former husband exposed to the leering gaze of others, Jules naturally takes the step of showing the tape to her friends.


But for Ellie, watching the tape of her best friend having sex has bitter consequences. Unable to bear comparing herself to her formerly “hot” friend, Ellie whines, “You know, I used to be that young and hot. Now at night, I sit in front of that damn magnifying mirror and pick at things that don't need to be picked. And all I see staring back at me is a big pile of old…Your sex tape ruined my marriage. My husband and I will never have sex again because of you and your stupid 20-year-old hot body.” Furthermore, stimulated by her story of watching her friend’s tape (and not, unfortunately, her Friends tape), Ellie’s husband Andy wants to make a sex tape of the two of them. Ellie reluctantly acquiesces, resulting in the following supposedly hilarious dialogue:


Andy: “I can't believe you let me tape us!...This is very exciting for me.”


Ellie: “I know.”


Andy: “Is my back really that hairy?”


Ellie: “Yes.”


Andy: “Is this in slow-motion?”


Ellie: “No.”


Andy: “Can we just erase this?”


Ellie: “Yes.”


This episode merely further demonstrates the totally twisted perspective Hollywood brings on the subject of sex and marriage. First, we learn that it is totally unremarkable for women to talk on the phone together while one is having sex with her husband. Then we find that it is apparently normal for people to show one another videos of themselves having sex. (One wonders whether this is standard behavior in TV sitcom writers’ meetings. Do Cougar Town’s writers swap videos of themselves having sex with their spouses, or sit down to a joint viewing of such tapes over lunch?) Also, we learn that, as is typical of youth-obsessed Hollywood, sex is only enjoyable if both partners are young and “hot;” longtime love and emotional commitment mean nothing. Finally, there is a ludicrous element to Cougar Town recently pointed out by Salon’s TV critic Heather Havrilesky: "What makes Cougar Town so bad is that …even though most of them appear to have been injected and spot-toned to the point of being exact replicas of their 20-something selves, we’re still supposed to believe them when they whine about how ugly and old and hideous they feel."

With Cougar Town’s incessant emphasis on sex, it appears that Courteney Cox is determined to keep remaking Dirt until it’s successful. For its treatment of marital intimacy totally devoid of love, compassion, common decency, or common sense, Cougar Town has been named Worst TV Show of the Week.


Worst TV Show of the Week

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