COURTENEY Cox has read the scathing criticism of her first comedy vehicle since “Friends” and yes, she understands it.
But Cox insists Cougar Town is no longer the show the haters called shrill, desperate and hysterical.
Heck, Channel 7 boss David Leckie even called it “shit”.
But, like a bad marriage, Cox and her castmates are finding it hard to break free of those early critiques.
For those living in a pop culture-free orbit, the title was meant to play on the contemporary term for an older single woman who prefers to date younger men.
Playing divorced real estate agent Jules Cobb, Cox was meant to strike a blow for female empowerment.
Instead, after a mauling by the critics and social commentators, the term turned predatory.
“Before it was like, ‘I don’t want to watch Cougar Town and Courteney Cox getting on to a younger guy every week’ … oh, please,” Cox says.
“It’s not what the show was even then, but it did have a negative connotation. Now we just don’t know how to get out of that title, we don’t know what to do with it. It’s terrible, so we just decided to make fun of it each week.”
The self-effacing gag comes in the opening titles, slugged variously with a reference to the criticism, for example “(the badly titled) Cougar Town” or “It’s OK to watch a show called Cougar Town“.
Cox is frank about the attacks, but grateful they weren’t too personal.
“I was kind of lucky early on and didn’t get pummelled too bad,” she says.
“They weren’t really attacks on me. If it had been attacks on me, that’s when I go dark, deep.”
For her it was mostly about the frenetic pace of the program – a signature of executive producer Bill Lawrence, of Scrubs fame.
“I’ve got to say, when I first saw the pilot … it seemed to go so fast. I was used to Friends pace, but this was just like zing, zing, zing, zing. And I just sat there and said, “Oh shit, this is really different than what I thought”,” Cox says.
“Even though I liked it, I thought, “This is crazy”.”
A shift in that rhythm was timed with Jules finding a stable partner in neighbour Grayson (Josh Hopkins), which has seen the on-screen chaos calm a little and a third season given the green light.
“Even though it’s still fast-paced, I think we’ve slowed down. I think we all learn from our mistakes and the critics seem to be liking it more,” she says.
Just don’t expect Cox to play the rock, a la Monica on Friends.
“I just want to continue to have her be kooky, as opposed to stable. Jules may be the centre of the show, but she’s just as kooky as her family.”