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"Cougar Town" not likely to seduce viewers

Cast members Christa Miller, Busy Philipps and Courteney Cox Arquette (L-R) listen to a question about the show "Cougar Town" during the Disney and ABC Television Group panels at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, California August 8, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Cougar Town is a place dreamed up by Bill Lawrence, the man who also helped give the world many excellent episodes of “Scrubs.” Courteney Cox, the woman who gave the world many amusing moments on “Friends,” is the star of ABC’s “Cougar Town.” Their television marriage could have worked.

Unfortunately, the character Lawrence dreamed up for Cox to play -- the recently divorced Jules, who goes completely mental one morning after noting a few elbow wrinkles and tummy jiggles -- is shrill, unappealing (except for the whole looking like Courteney Cox thing), self-obsessed and has no filter between what she thinks and what she says.

Things she says: “All the single guys our age are broken, gay or chasing younger girls.” And, “I started thinking with my coochie cooch.” And don’t forget the discussion with her teenage son, Travis, about penis-holding. At least the boy has the grace to be mortified by his mother’s sudden need to find the G-spot.

To sum up: This is a one-note premise, with a lead character no one could want to spend five minutes with, based on a passing fad. That the show -- which bows Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. -- also echoes at least one other new show on the fall schedule, the less middling “Accidentally on Purpose” on CBS, doesn’t help its case.

Yet there is light in this dark, cynical tunnel: Jules’ son. Played by Dan Byrd with a sweet, dry sense of delivery that recalls Neil Patrick Harris, Travis would provide a more realistic show focus. He’s the calm center in a universe of insane adults. In addition to his mom, his shiftless dad (Brian Van Holt) is riding around his high school on a mower, shirtless (he’s the new groundskeeper), and his single neighbor (Josh Hopkins) across the street, mom’s nemesis, plays sugar daddy to an array of twentysomethings. With these people as role models, who would want to grow up?

“Cougar” is a mess of a place no one would want to visit, even for a half-hour. With a little luck, though, it’ll have a short shelf life -- and give Byrd a chance for a better job.