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|Written by Lauren Cheal|
|Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00|
I owe a couple of people an apology. Courteney, Julia, my bad. I wrote off your shows as crappy, and they really aren't.
Let's start with Ms. Cox. This one is tougher because I publicly wrote off her show, Cougar Town, in my Fall TV Preview for 2009. I judged it only on its terrible, terrible name and a dumb preview. Admittedly, the first few episodes of the show are not the strongest, as they focus on Cox's character, Jules Cobb, while she tries to bed younger men. As the first season wears on, the focus shifts from the obvious comedy of an older woman in "younger person's" situations and on to the truly funny interactions of the group of neighbours. Courteney Cox is hilarious as the smug, neurotic and goofy Jules. Freaks and Geeks alum Busy Phillips is equally funny as the young slutty and dumb friend, and sitcom veteran Christa Miller (The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs) plays off both of them very well as the cruelly sarcastic one who calls them both on their ridiculousness. These women are backed up by a male cast of Ian Gomez, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins and Brian Van Holdt. The men are fine as backgrounders, but the comedy definitely comes from Jules, et al. I wouldn't say this show is high comedy by any means, but it does make me laugh frequently, and there is something to be said for that kind of television filler. Ms. Cox, you have my apology.
Ms. Louis-Dreyfus, you are next. The New Adventures of Old Christine is actually a funny show. I was fairly anti-JLD because of her involvement in the iconic Seinfeld (a show that I still do not think is funny). But she began to win me over as the fake blind Maggie Lizer in Arrested Development, and her work on NAOOC has clinched it -- I really like her. The show (which is now cancelled, and lives on in syndication, where I found it), focuses on a post-divorce mom and her new life. A pretty simple concept -- standard sitcom fair. So why is this show not crappy? The comedic talents of JLD really help things out. Her self-effacing humour about her love of wine and problems with men is genuinely funny. And she is supported by Wanda Sykes, whom I really love. Both of these women take average jokes and deliver them with an added something that makes them funnier. Sykes in particular does a great job with little facial expressions and reactions that are really priceless. This show is not as strong as Cougar Town, but it is funnier than I would have given it credit for. It is an old-school sitcom that really shines in syndication (and one that I wouldn't have tuned into when it was on the air). For writing you off long ago, Ms. Louis-Dreyfus, I apologize.
Both of these shows feature rather unlikable characters as their leads. Cox's Jules is overly smug, meddles with her friends' lives and she is a little bit dumb. JLD's Christine is also kind of dumb, selfish and mean. And yet, I love both of their characters. They are unapologetically unlikable and the fact that they embrace it and live it makes for great comedy. Both also frequently embrace a glass of wine, and that is a lady I can support. The people who surround them know that they are unlikable, but they put up with them because they are a part of their family, and that is a nice thing to watch. There is something to be said for these middle-range comedies. They are not the nuanced and layered works like the Arrested Developments or even the 30 Rocks, but they are funny. As a critic, it is easy to overlook this kind of show, but they certainly have a value. If there is a lesson for me here, it is to not judge a show by its crappy title (The New Adventures of Old Christine is way too long, and Cougar Town is so off-putting I can't even get into it), and the lesson for all of us is that being likable is totally overrated.
Lauren Cheal is a writer and television nut currently based in Ottawa. You can follow her on twitter @lylcoln or read her blog www.peoplearedumb.tumblr.com.