Television
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Review: 'Cougar Town' still silly, sweet in all the right ways

It's appropriate that "Cougar Town" finally begins its third season on Valentine's Day, because the charming and wonderfully funny sitcom always has had love in its heart.

Not just romantic love—although there is plenty of that in the season premiere (7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, ABC; 3.5 stars)—but also the love between family members and between friends.

In Tuesday's premiere, Jules (Courteney Cox) feels the gang is mocking her for being too predictable—they are—while Grayson (Josh Hopkins) gets serious about his feelings toward her. Bobby (Brian Van Holt) keeps finding excuses to visit son Travis (Dan Byrd) at the house he’s moved into with seven other college kids and a homemade "green screen." Ellie (Christa Miller) and Andy (Ian Gomez) are so disturbed by their "devil baby" that Ellie asks Laurie (Busy Philipps) for advice.

And yes, the entire "cul-de-sac crew" still drinks copious amounts of wine together. (When Jules asks, "Are we only drinking on the weekends now?" that gang shouts defiantly, "No!")

They still annoy each other, too, but remain solid friends anyway—which is the brightly written and never overly sentimental premise of the series that started out with a decidedly different approach. "Cougar Town" debuted to mixed reviews in 2009 as a comedy about 40-something Jules dating 20-something guys. But that initial concept was thankfully dumped before the end of the first season in favor of a story about Jules’ group of friends who hang out and consume large amounts of wine.

Large numbers of viewers didn’t stick with the show long enough to see how creator Bill Lawrence and his writers transformed it into a smart comedy worthy of its former spot on Wednesday’s schedule with “Modern Family,” and now it is in danger of being canceled. (So tune in!)

Part of the reason “Cougar Town” wasn’t able to sustain ratings is that it remains stuck with the misleading title, which Lawrence thought about changing but ABC balked. So now the writers simply make fun of it. The show’s title card Tuesday reads: “Yes, it’s still called ‘Cougar Town.’ We’re not happy about it either.”

Viewers can be happy the show is back and replacing the awful “Work It,” even if only for a truncated 15-episode season. “Cougar Town” returns with its wit, silliness and good-heartedness fully intact. It’s amazing how many jokes and goofy moments the writers can fit into each scene—expertly played by the fine cast—but keep the characters grounded in the show’s decidedly absurd reality.

When Lawrence asked Twitter followers for possible new show titles last fall, I suggested “Family Jules” not only for the childish double entendre (hey, I’m immature, what can I say?), but because the series always has struck me as a loving tribute to the families we create out of friends.

No matter what happens between members of the cul-de-sac crew, they still love each other. And I can drink to that.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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