The good news today came from the TBS cable network: It's renewing "Cougar Town" for another 13-episode season.
At a time when so many comedies flounder, "Cougar" is always pleasant and sometimes quite good. The current season has new episodes for the next three Tuesdays; this week (March 26) brings the focus back to "penny can," the characters' exercise in time-wasting. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Sure, it looks like fun to be a “Cougar
Town” star. Still, there's a drawback: You play “penny can” a
“You can't stop doing it,” Christa
Miller said. “Then the people who are good maybe get obnoxious.”
That's a widespread problem, Courteney
Cox said. “We have a lot of competitive people on the show.”
Proof of that came when four people –
Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, Ian Gomez and Miller – each took
credit for being the best at penny can.
Now Tuesday's episode brings extra
focus: Travis needs the perfect partner for a high-stakes game.
The whole notion of giving high stakes
and high energy to penny can is rather odd. “It's not really a
complicated game,my friend,” producer Bill Lawrence said.
You take an empty paint can and try to
toss a penny into it. If you succeed, you say “penny can.” No one
will ever confuse this with chess.
The simplicity matches the “Cougar
Town” mood. “We decided the show was about adult friendship,”
Lawrence said, with “friends drinking wine, having dinner, hanging
At the core are:
– Jules (Cox, the show's star), her
ex-husband Bobby (Van Holt) and new husband Grayson (Hopkins).
– Travis (Dan Byrd), the college-age
son of Jules and Bobby.
– Laurie (Busy Phillips), who has a
colorful past. “I cannot keep (track of) how any times my
character has almost died, lived in a van, how many step-fathers,
foster parents,” Phillips said.
– And the next-door neighbors, Ellie
and Andy (Miller and Gomez). She's the bossy one.
That may or may not be typecasting: In
real life, Miller and Lawrence have been married 13 years; she admits
to being authoritative with him, but says he needs the guidance.
“He does really dumb things,”
Miller said. “And I might have to remind him, after the 50th
time that he sets the alarm off: 'Maybe figure out a different way to
learn the alarm code.'”
On the set, Lawrence wants things to be
fun but efficient. That's not easy, once people start playing penny
can. “The crew is standing around, waiting to shoot something,”
he said, “while these idiots play an hour and a half of that stupid
Only Cox and Phillips admit to being
bad at it, so we'll let Phillips decide who's the best.
“Josh, she said. “Christa's really
good as well.” Maybe they'll have a high-stakes play-off.
– “Cougar Town,”10 p.m. Tuesdays,
TBS; rerunning at midnight.
– This week's episode also reruns at
11 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday; other episodes rerun at 3 p.m.
weekdays, except when pre-empted by basketball.
– First season on TBS, after three on