Oh, Cougar Town, my favourite little midweek pick-me-up. “The Same Old You” was a nice change of pace for the series. It wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as some other episodes this season have been, but it provided a nice, heartwarming story that brought the cul-de-sac crew together.

After reading comments around various websites, I got the impression that a lot of viewers thought that the show had gotten a little too snarky over the past few weeks. For me, it was never a big problem, but I can see where they’re coming from, and I didn’t think that it was a good idea for the series to get any snarkier. Instead, this week, we got a lovely, Bobby-centric story. Bobby is frequently the target of the group’s taunts, and to an outsider, his life might seem like a joke. After all, he’s divorced and living alone on a boat called Jealous Much in a parking lot with no running water. Realizing this, Jules decides to enlist the help of the rest of the cul-de-sac crew to renovate Jealous Much and put it in a slip in the marina.* However, their plan fails when the gang realizes that the boat isn’t seaworthy and the boat sinks. Nevertheless, Jules makes Bobby realize that people care about him, and Bobby appreciates the gesture. It’s a sweet story, but not cloying in any way, and that’s the beauty of it. I felt happy that the group was doing a nice thing for Bobby. I was sad (but chuckling at the same time) when the boat sank. But I didn’t feel as if the show was trying too hard to elicit emotions from me. This plot line gave Jules a chance to display her more generous side, which I’d missed after seeing her selfish, neurotic side come to the forefront over the past few episodes. But the best part about this story was that it brought the group together and showed us how strong the bonds that hold them together are. Even silly, little gags like Jules, Andy, and Bobby all ganging up on the mailman who refused to deliver mail to Bobby’s boat demonstrate that the people in the cul-de-sac crew have each other’s backs. Plus, I enjoyed seeing everyone coming together on the fairway at the end of the episode to watch Bobby sink his final putt.

The first subplot this week involved Grayson and Ellie digging up dirt from each other’s pasts. It was pretty creepy that they could find so much information about each other just by using the Internet, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Digging up embarrassing stuff from characters’ pasts is often cheap comic fodder,** but I felt that all the pictures and videos didn’t overwhelm the plot because very little time was spent on each one.

The second subplot about Laurie and Travis’ friendship being misinterpreted as something potentially romantic was fun to watch because Dan Byrd and Busy Phillips play so well off each other, but it worries me that the show seems to be headed towards hooking them up. I think that they have great friend chemistry, but let’s not forget that Laurie slept with Grayson last season. Dating a girl who slept with the guy who is currently dating your mom is all kinds of wrong. I shouldn’t complain too much, though, because this episode gave us Laurie posing as a sorority girl and Kevin’s “Chocolate Kirsten” song.***

Overall, “The Same Old You” delivered what Cougar Town has been delivering all season: quality comedy with a good ol’ dose of heart. Due to Community’s recent resurgence, I’m reluctant to call Cougar Town the best comedy on television right now. But second-best ain’t bad, and going a half-season without putting out a single dud is an impressive achievement. Here’s hoping that Cougar Town comes back just as strong in the new year.

 

* Jules is probably the nicest ex-wife on the planet.

** I still haven’t forgiven 30 Rock for that horrible 1-900 OK-FACE ad a couple of seasons ago. It wasn’t funny. At all.

*** I hope I’m not the only who thinks that LaMarcus Tinker is absolutely hilarious as Kevin. He might be one of my favourite minor characters on any television series ever.

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