Pilot Review: Modern Family and Cougar Town

Today’s reviews are a two-fer for a couple of reasons.
a) I’m getting quite a long way behind
b) These two shows air back-to-back in the US so if the schedulers aren’t completely stupid there’ll be some similarities
c) I’m running out of things to say about mediocre half hour comedies.

Modern Family
Claire: I was out of control growing up, there you know, I said it. I just don’t want my kids to make the same bad mistakes I made. If Hailey never wakes up on a beach in Florida half naked, I’ve done my job.
Phil: Our job.
Claire: Right, I’ve done our job.

Modern Family is all about an extended family, made up of three ‘modern’ households. Trying to explain the families would take more pixels than it’s worth (ABC has a family tree), suffice to say they’re a not terribly original collection of stereotypes who I hope to god I never to have to share a bus with, let alone DNA. They have even more opportunities to make me want to punch them thanks to the now oh-so-trendy documentary style filming, complete with pieces to camera for each of the characters to shine.

There really is very little to like about this show. For each quiet chuckle I gave there were ten times as many moments I wanted to hide under a cushion. The jokes are telegraphed a mile in advance and really aren’t worth waiting for. None of the relationships worked for me, every sensible person seemed to have partnered up with a complete moron for some reason and the only sensible outcome I can see is for the under-tens to stage a coup and divorce their parents.

Cougar Town
Jules: I’m guessing the boy I flashed goes to your school.
Travis: Yes he does.
Jules: Is he single? … Kidding! Why don’t you ever laugh at my jokes?
Travis: Because they make me sad.

Cougar Town is the new Courteney Cox vehicle. I can’t help but think she must have been so thrilled to get the call from her agent: “Hey Courtney, great news, we’ve been approached with a part for you! It’s the lead in a show about a recently divorced 40 year old who’s desperately single and surrounded by people who are much younger, prettier and perkier than she is. She’s realising that her successes may all be in the past and that her life is effectively coasting to the end. Isn’t it wonderful that they thought of you!”

Cox overcomes her disappointment and throws herself into the role enthusiastically, somehow managing to overcome a pretty dreadful script and drag a credible performance from it. The rest of the cast isn’t so talented and are pretty miserable. There’s the potential for an interesting relationship with her son, but the poor kid was saddled with cripplingly awful dialogue for which is only response was to wave his arms about like a demented windmill to act as some sort of distraction. It didn’t work.

The fundamental problem with both of these shows is that I just don’t care. I immediately loved the Friends, Will and Grace, the people at Cheers and who knows how many other comedies I watched endlessly thanks to the Paramount Comedy Channel in the 90s. How am I supposed to have much sympathy for a character who looks like Courtney Cox, bemoans that it’s hard being single and 40 and then immediately picks up a boy toy in a bar? Yeah, I laughed at a few of the lines, but I want a little bit more than that, otherwise it’s just about the laugh density of the show and generally you’ll get better ratios watching standup on YouTube.

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  1. May 16th, 2012
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