Cougar Town, “No Reason To Cry”

I know I said yesterday in my Southland review that I wasn’t really looking forward for television to return this soon in 2011, but I have to admit if there was one series that I absolutely missed over the holidays, it was Cougar Town. These people are just wonderful and I want to have as much of them in my life as possible. Therefore, even though “No Reason To Cry” is far from the best episode the series has had to offer this season, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud constantly because Andy, Ellie, Bobby, Laurie and company were back.

And really, it’s kind of fitting that “No Reason To Cry” is just a B to B-plus episode. It’s a nice, quick reintroduction to the series characters for the few randoms who might have been trying the series for the first time ever and features a few fun running gags and a mostly successful story at the center that makes the series appear to be about a little something more than drinking. None of these elements are overly great, but they’re charming and in the case of the story with Jules and Grayson, fairly emotionally satisfying. “No Reason To Cry” is just an enjoyable episode of television. Nothing major to complain about, but not a whole lot major to praise either.

First and foremost, I am happy that this episode decided to conclude the “L-O-V-E” problem between Grayson and Jules. It wasn’t something that earlier episodes ran into the ground, but it seemed as if that Grayson’s inability to say “I love you” to Jules was the one substantial plot point the series wanted to run with. For better or for worse, the plot didn’t really have much weight to it. On one hand, when the series gave a lot of screen time to the story in a few episodes, it didn’t drag anything down because it wasn’t really taken that seriously or brought to light in a melodramatic way. In fact, Jules’ maturity — or at least slight step towards maturity — in handling the situation was admirable for her and thus it wasn’t too distracting. But in the same breath, it didn’t really fit alongside Andy and Ellie’s games and funerals for wine glasses.

“No Reason To Cry” is definitely the most successful discussion of Grayson and Jules’ issues and not just because they more or less come to an end here. The two of them are obviously different and this episode does a nice job of exploring that in a simultaneously funny and emotionally realistic way. Jules accidentally kills a few animals and gets worked up about it, something Grayson finds funny and so of course Jules blows this up to mean a whole lot more than it probably actually does, but that’s how she rolls. And that’s why I think the goofy animal deaths and shoe-horning of the L-word works here. Jules always blows things out of proportion and when she’s already in a particularly stressful situation with Grayson, she’s not going to take jokes lightly.

As i said, Jules’ ability to not push Grayson on the love thing hasn’t been flawlessly executed as an overall story, but it has gone a long way in making Jules more likable and well, like a human being. This is the series’ greatest challenge at this point in season two and in “No Reason” continues to improve Jules’ sensibilities. She still has a hyper-dependent relationship with Travis (per their little couple competition at the beginning of the episode), but she’s at least improving as a relationship partner and learning to respect Grayson. And on the flip side, Grayson’s goofy animal funeral/graveyard was a nice moment of him showing Jules that she is A.) ridiculous sometimes but B.) still lovable for her ridiculousness. It was a great way for Grayson to show his love without losing himself.

But of course, that’s enough on the “serious” Cougar Town moments. We watch this series because these people are just awesome to be around and “No Reason To Cry” offers a number of funny moments to revel in. Ellie and Andy’s little argument over trying to keep something for themselves amid the craziness that is Jules’ “Friend Prison” was great and so was Kirsten’s terrible decision to open Bobby up to the horrors of the real world.

Honestly though, my favorite parts of this episode were the small moments. I loved when Grayson said that Andy’s favorite movie is Die Hard and Ellie was “an awful person” or when Kirsten slowly started to realize that she was being sucked in to the Culdesac Crew and that Travis’ dream woman (Megan Fox) dresses and kind of looks like his mother. Obviously, Cougar Town has a number of big hilarious moments, but it’s the smaller beats like this that make me smile and that’s the kind of thing I look for when I sit down to watch a comedy. Sometimes a smile is better than a laugh, as dumb and Modern Family-ian as that sounds.

Finally: The Diet Dr. Pepper thing? Eh. I wasn’t really bothered by it until the end of the episode when the cure for Bobby’s issues was the noise of an opening can. I see that the series was trying to make it obvious that they were taking this money in for product placement, but I don’t know if it actually worked. There is a fine line between hyper-real parody of product placement and just straight up product placement and it seems as if the DDP bit here fell on the wrong side of this line.

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