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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cougar Town: "My Life/Your World"

Are we sure we want this show to continue? Not many shows have ever had a finale as poignant and funny as “My Life/Your World”, which would have served as a series finale had TBS not picked up the show when ABC cancelled it. As is, it serves as a nice goodbye both to ABC, the network that could never find a home for the show they saddled with an unpalatable name and premise, and to creator Bill Lawrence, the man who at first cynically embraced said premise and then turned it on its head, eschewing the possibility for a broad audience for the sake of comedy and personal integrity. Lawrence is leaving the show, though unlike Community’s Dan Harmon his departure is not acrimonious, and he’ll still have some level of involvement. Whoever takes over will have an extremely difficult task in continuing the show at the same level of achievement.

On the path to its astonishingly well-done close, “My Life/Your World” takes some bumpy roads and unappealing turns. It’s always tricky when a show has its main characters behaving selfishly and unsympathetically. While Cougar Town has always highlighted its ensembles less desirable traits, the spats here between Grayson and Jules are hard to take. Grayson’s need for privacy is somewhat well-established, and they have certainly built up his unease over selling his house, a sanctuary from the Cul-de-Sac Crew. But his extreme anger over the situation is an engineered emotion to explode the grenade of Laurie’s status as a pitied co-Maid of Honor. The move to get back at Jules rings absurdly false.

Still, I loved the construct of Groundhog Day-ing Jules. It worked especially well because it played on her insecurity over not understanding movies and her incessant need to please. That it all came together as Jules simultaneously grasped why Laurie was mad at her and how Bill Murray got the day to stop repeating itself was a stroke of genius.

Even then, we weren’t quite out of the woods. Grayson’s still upset about never having Jules to himself, so he wants to elope, a notion which has admittedly never seemed as romantic to me as it has been depicted on television and film. Jules agrees, but only because she misunderstands her fiance’s “just us” dictate to mean, just the crew, plus her dad. Grayson’s insistence that Jules ask the gang to leave so they can get married alone feels extremely controlling, which it is, until it is revealed as a hoax. Still, it’s never a great idea to make your romantic leading man look like a domineering control freak.

While the Napa setting for the elopement lead to a lot of great visual humor, especially Jules’ personal wineglass-refiller, it turns out to be almost filler, as the elopement that really wasn’t an elopement gets called off when both Jules and Grayson realize that his daughter should be there.

Oh, and in subplots no one really cared about, Ellie had a far-too-flirtatious thing going on with the hotel concierge (David Arquette, oddly enough) and Travis had his heart broken by Laurie again when her army boyfriend surprised her in Napa. Luckily he’s turned 21 just in time to learn how to enjoy wine without learning how to stop before you hit drunkenly-confessing-your-love-while-naked status.

It all leads, though, to the perfect capper, the gang coming together to give Jules the beach-wedding she’s always wanted, Mayor Barry Bostwick be damned. It was a terrifically sweet thing to behold, Chick the ordained minister riding in on horseback, the wedding taking place on the march to hold off the local P.D., and Jules and Grayson riding off into the sunset.

I mean, if the show ended right there, who could possibly complain?

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