How Can Cougar Town Not Be Funny?!

My DVR accidentally recorded Cougar Town and against my better judgment, I watched an entire episode of the new fall ABC comedy starring Courteney Cox.

Cox herself now 46 years old, plays Jules Cobb, a recently divorced mother of a teenage boy, trying to get on with her life? Get laid? Find love? Revenge? It’s not clear. But she’s quirky. She’s a “cougar,” a large stalk-and-ambush predatory cat or a woman over 40 into younger men and there’s a whole town of them apparently.

The episode I caught opens with Jules Cobb rubbing/shaving the “scales” off her feet. She is also obsessed with her chin hair, won’t let people watch her eat and is constantly kvetching that she used to be way “hotter.” You know, the type of person caller ID helps you avoid. Jules is horrified by how she looks in the close-up mirror and under certain lighting conditions. This is all she can talk about. This is all the episode covered. This is the exact discourse at any given Macy’s women’s restroom and the exact reason you don’t hang out there for 30 minutes with commercial breaks.

Cougar Town is about opining for those “good old days” when Jules was married to a (stock character) jerk, but alas (according to her) she was more physically attractive. Jules’ best friend, played by actress Christa Miller, is somewhat happily married but admits all she does is look in the mirror and “see a big pile of old.” I wanted the characters to sit at a piano and parody the opening from All in the Family, “Girls were girls and men were men…” But that would actually be clever.

In this series, strangely enough, Jules’ has no self-irony. Desperately (in this episode) she wants her “hot” neighbor to think she’s cute. She thinks she’s cute wearing a cocktail dress to take out the garbage. That’s what cute chicks do, right? Act cute and wear small clothes? Act exactly how they acted when they were 19? That’s hot right? That’s what the concept of “cougars” is about? Being hot?

Then there’s the elephant in the living room, both Courteney Cox and Christa Miller have had not-so-great plastic surgery to attempt to not look like what their characters are afraid to look like. It’s a strange misdirection and any humor gets lost in this re-alignment. Where’s the joke supposed to be exactly?

The series is written thus far by Kevin Biegel and Bill Lawrence. Two men who may have seen a “cougar,” or thought about them or something but otherwise have reduced older women into a sad Courteney Cox-shaped cartoon. Because that’s how older chicks are, right? All they do is worry about their chin hair and being sexy. It’s so real.

This show is the opposite of feminism. In feminism women are empowered. “Cougars” are empowered. The premise is that they have money and power so they can afford to troll for young hot guys. In Cougar Town, women are powerless over their sagging parts and held hostage by their not-as-attractiveness. The only thing that’s made them valuable is on the verge of being completely stripped away.

It’s like a show about the chained cave prisoners in Plato’s Republic taking place as they are losing their sight. Meaning: they are myopic. And the future means even more reduction.

Yes. It was that depressing.

The thing I find offensive about the show is that aging is hilarious. It’s just funny. There’s the aspect of vulnerability and low-lying absurdity: you know better but you’re no better. It’s gallows humor. It’s guffawing in the face of inevitability. It’s a universal theme and it’s universally cruel.

So a television show about a woman facing her own mortality deciding to schtup young dudes, it’s pretty difficult to make it not funny.

Oh but it happened.

 This piece originally ran on True/Slant.