'Cougar Town' and 'Modern Family': Hallelujah! People watched 'em!

modern-family-cougar-town_lLast night, I sat down for the series premieres of Modern Family and Cougar Town, bringing high expectations to the former, and a sense of “eh, might as well finish out the hour on ABC” to the latter. But lo and behold, both shows left me howling with laughter, then promptly fearing that they’d draw Wonderfalls-sized audiences and get taken down to the river with the brick and the burlap sack. If you shared my feeling of nameless dread about these shows, however, you can stop fretting — at least for now. My colleague Mandi Bierly reports that the comedy duo pulled in a better-than-respectable 12. 7 and 11.4 million viewers, respectively. (Ratings hounds: Keep an eye on our Hollywood Insider blog every weekday around lunchtime to get a handy breakdown of the network’s overnights.) With MF and CT‘s short-term prognosis looking okay, we can now sit back, set DVR series-recordings, and talk about how awesome they are — without fear that we’re setting ourselves up for Post-Traumatic Early Cancellation Disorder.

Of the two shows, Cougar Town definitely surprised me the most, thanks to razor-sharp jokes that elevated it above the gimmicky horny-middle-aged-single-lady-prowls-for-manmeat rubric its title (and promos) suggested. I howled when Cox’s realtor Jules directed a December-May couple to a master bedroom, then muttered under her breath, “If you wanna see where your 1,000-year-old husband will eventually die on top of you,” and also when, drunkenly raging against her bimbo-chasing neighbor, she shouted “In a hoodie? Really? If you want her to think you’re that young why don’t you just wear those PJs with the feet on them!” Just as important, though, Cougar Town pays attention to little details: The bevy of “hot mom” types populating the opening-scene high-school football game (the better to explain Jules’ visible insecurities), the way she combined two glasses of wine into one after her neighbor cancelled their planned hang-out, even Cox’s electric orange floral dress. I also appreciated that the show’s writers had Jules totally tipsy and uninhibited (telling a suitor he was “hot as balls”) after only two cocktails.

Beyond Cox’s winning performance, Cougar Town features a deep, appealing ensemble cast including Dan Byrd (of the late, lamented Aliens in America), Freaks and Geeks‘ Busy Phillips, Felicity‘s Ian Gomez, Brothers & Sisters‘ Josh Hopkins, Scrubs‘ Christa Miller, and especially scene stealer Carolyn Hennesy, who scored the pilot’s biggest laugh, lasciviously mouthing “Nail that” (complete with fist pump) after spotting Jules flirting with a hot, young stud.

As for critical darling Modern Family, well, in just 22 minutes, it managed to paint a whole crew of distinctive, oddball, heartbreakingly funny players. It’s rare to find a sitcom (or even a drama) these days where you sense that the writers have thought deeply about their characters, where punch lines come out of the mouths of vibrant, believable beings rather than hastily sketched archetypes. Line of the night for me was Julie Bowen’s Claire insisting her teenage daughter keep her door open while hanging out with a male classmate: “I’ve seen this little show before: Lying on the bed with a tall senior. One minute you’re just friends watching Falcon Crest. The next you’re lying under the air-hockey table with your bra in your pocket.” DWTS maven Annie Barrett, however, Tweeted that her favorite zinger came courtesy of Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s brilliantly uptight Mitchell: “Nothing gay going on in here, dad…May I take your multi-colored coat and bejeweled cap?” And what’s awesome about Modern Family is I bet you guys could come up with a dozen other options for the episode’s best zinger, and you’d all be correct, too. (Check out my colleague Ken Tucker’s full take on the show, too, over at his action-packed Watching TV blog!)

Who else is already hooked on Modern Family and Cougar Town? Anyone set a series recording yet, or were you not as impressed as I was? Sound off in the comments section below, and (because I like to sound like a broken record) follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak!

Image Credit: Modern Family: Ron Tom/ABC; Cougar Town: Michael Desmond/ABC

Comments (120 total) Add your comment
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  • aps

    Modern Family was hilarious. I can’t wait for the next episode. exactly right that there were multiple choices for zinger of the night. every once in a while a joke would fall flat, but then a second later you’d be laughing hysterically.

  • Michael

    Loved both of them! I’ll be sure to tune in every Wednesday, and then Hulu the episode of Glee I’ve missed. Yes, I have to Hulu.If I want to record something then I have to pop a blank VHS into my VCR and be ready to hit “Play” and “REC” at the same time. The woes of being DVRless…

  • Shannon S.

    “Why are you smiling Dad?” I almost fell on the floor I was laughing so hard…probably cause I have kids and that’s exactly what I’d do.

  • Chaddogg

    “Lily? Isn’t she going to have problems saying that?”

  • Frank SF-CA

    I watched 10 mins of this crap Mod Fam and changed the channel. I like the characters but couldn’t take the stereotypical homophobic wise cracks from the dumbass father. Awful. I guess I am lucky my dad is truly modern and loves me and my partner of 13 years.

  • crispy

    I just watched it on my DVR… and about fell off the couch at “Lilly? Won’t that be hard for her to say?”

    • Beth

      OMG yes, I forgot about that one. His character reminds me a bit of Michael from “The Office” – thinks he’s cool but comes off as completely dorky.

    • Dina

      Wow. I JUST got that right now. Liking the show even more.

      • coco

        how about the little potsticker comment…so wrong but so hilarious!
        Loved this show!!!!

  • graeme

    Haven’t watched Modern Family yet, but Cougar Town was great. Not perfect. It was a little overstuffed and frantic, but there was tons of potential and tons of laughs. Cox was fantastic.

  • Beth

    The “Mall walkers walk over there” comment had me laughing for about two minutes.

  • tim

    I liked Modern Family, but I wish it was an hour long “dramedy” instead of a sitcom. Too many interesting characters for such a short time. “Glee” continues to get more campy, so I’m glad to have “Modern Family” as an option. I had high hopes for Glee, I wish the writer/director would not try so hard.

    • ger

      How can a show called Glee not be campy> And how can you not love it?

      • Chris

        Because It’s half-lame. I liked some of the writing, but if you don’t dig on musical theater stuff, you prolly won’t be into the show.

    • illyrialegacy

      I have to agree about Glee. It hasn’t lived up to the hype. While it has its moments, I do find myself bored fairly often. The strange thing is that it’s starting to remind me of that show “Popular,” which is not a good thing.

      • DaniVT

        Or not so strange that it reminds you of popular- since both shows are Ryan Murphy creations… I personally like Glee a lot more!

  • Mac

    Modern Family was great but I couldn’t get into Cougar Town. The relationship between her and her son was no believable. I don’t think anyone is gonna shrug off watching their mom fellate a random dude. Anyone?

    • BJD

      I agree. Modern Family was absolutely hilarious and made me wish it were an hour-long show! As for Cougartown….probably won’t watch it again. It reminds me of the John Stamos show they tried out several years back where he was a single guy lookin’ for love. Not always do these types of concepts offer a lot of places to go….it ends up kinda being pretty much the same old thing each week — and John Stamos is MUCH better looking that Courtney Cox Arquette! Although as a 54-year-old single Mom myself, I could sure sympathize with a lot of the things she said, that’s for darn sure! Ha!

    • jcnlv

      Modern family looks like a winner to me. Really enjoyed it and both my wife and myself were laughing out loud throughout the show… (and she rarely does that!) Wonderful, funny writing and clever interaction of characters.
      I think the characters are ALL really good, and didn’t find it slight bit homophobic (but I’m not gay, curious how gays in general felt about it) Ed Bundy with the Columbian hottie is perfect! and she played the part perfectly so it seemed charming and believable and not just a out-sized characture. I actually called friends to tell them to go watch it online as I really think it is special.

      • jcnlv

        I got so carried away raving about Modern Family that I forgot to say that I felt Cougar Town was over the top… the jokes and writing were so blatant and in your face and was lacking in sophistication and any form of subtlety (and I am not conservative at all..). I found it tacky in comparison to Modern Family. The idea of a kid catching his mom fellating(sp?) some young dude she picked up, and then as her only “punishment” restricting her to eat bananas is just a bit weird to me… her casual self centered attitude about most everything was offensive to me. Scolding her neighbor’s dating habits after what she was doing didn’t make sense and the idea some young teenage kids would steal her cleavage exposed realtor signs (to pleasure themselves with) was ridiculous and the keystone cops chase scene that ensued like something out of The Monkees… I gave it a “C-”… I will watch again as I like Courtney Cox… but I doubt it will become a must see.

  • MAMA WEST

    I enjoyed both shows! Finally a NON-REALITY TV program. Lots of Fun!

    • BJD

      Yup! I’m so sick of all the stupid ‘reality’ shows that I could just about throw up!! I will not watch them. I get enough ‘reality’ during my day. When I come home, I want to escape!

  • Nick

    OMG! “Cougar Town” took me by complete surprise, I love Courtney but this show is SO well written, I was laughing out loud! Great cast too. I am hooked! Loved “Modern Family” too. My one problem? “Glee” is on at the same time, so I will be watching the other shows after “Glee” is over.
    Bravo!

    • BJD

      Glee sucks….yuk…..

      • Pants Pie

        Your face sucks!

  • Andrew

    It was a great show! i think personally the best zinger of the night was the “creampuffs” joke. i couldn’t stop laughing! can’t wait for next weeks episode!

  • DRS

    I loved Modern Family. I actually caught the end of it on Jet Blue a couple of weeks ago and was laughing out loud (which is never funny on a crowded airplane). Cougartown might not last long on my DVR. I completely disagree with Slezak on this (which is rare). I never thought it would be possible, but Courtney Cox came off as a more shrill, more desperate version of Monica from Friends. And it just wasn’t that funny. I’ll give it one more week though.

    • Well DRS….

      I am a flight attendant for Jetblue and trust me….people crack up all the time watching TV on the plane, some just louder than others. I prefer that so much more to the alternative. We showed “Marley and Me” on the plane and everyone was bawling their heads off. I watched “Modern Family” last night and I would dare ANYONE who watched it on the plane or anywhere else, NOT to laugh out loud. It was genius! And not to be picky but……..just thought about it and wondering how you watched it on Jetblue when we don’t have ABC. It’s the only network we don’t show. Just curious. Oh well.

  • Steph

    I also figured I would just finish out the night on ABC and was so pleasantly surprised! I LOVE that the Monica shove is still around. I finished the night in tears of laughter!

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