Will they or won’t they? It's an evergreen televisual phenomenon. It’s a notion that has provided the driving force behind many a classic TV show. But there is an inherent flaw in the method: what happens when they finally do?
The Cougar Town Season 3 finale braved this question, finally wedding Courteney Cox’s Jules with Josh Hopkins’ Grayson. The two have enjoyed a fairly traditional ascension toward the ultimate showdown of romance. They started out as contentious enemies, developed an unlikely friendship, and eventually realized and explored their true affections for one another. It took three seasons, it happened organically, and it was quite a sweet ride. But seriously — now what?
Jules’ and Grayson’s relationship has been the center of Cougar Town in terms of plot progress and sincerity. There have been other story arcs, of course: Bobby’s love affair with Sarah Chalke, Ellie’s and Andy’s difficulty raising their psychopathic son Stan, Grayson’s recent revelation that he has a daughter. All are entertaining, sure. But none have been strong enough to really carry the series without the help of a power-player like the Jules/Grayson romance.
Of course, there is another option. Cougar Town’s not-so-secret weapon. Another Will they or won’t they, and one even willer-or-won’ter than the given that Jules and Grayson was from the start: The epic love story of Travis and Laurie.
Jules’ 20 year-old son Travis has had a monopolizing crush on his mother’s assistant and close friend since the early days of Season 1. Ever since, fans have seen the pair flirt, contemplate one another as romantic partners, and tease the viewing public with occasional hints that something might actually manifest between the two of them. To date, nothing has — even after Travis’ inebriated display of affection during the Season 3 finale. During his mother’s ad-hoc rehearsal dinner, Travis got incredibly drunk, and vehemently naked, and professed his love to Laurie in front of her soldier boyfriend Wade.
We're treated to a suggestive glance from Laurie to Travis at the end of the episode. Just enough to stir audiences' curiosity without actually committing to any legitimate story advancement.
To date, the Travis and Laurie thoroughfare has only popped up to center stage every so often, maintaining a fresh and non-repetitive feel to their cat-and-mouse game of young, reasonably misguided love. Despite (or maybe because of) this, it's one of fans' most arduously awaited possibilities in the perpetual Cougar Town future. With as much backstory and fleshing out as their romance has been given, it might find itself right at home as the primary conflict during future seasons.
But other than that, Cougar Town looks to be at a loss for any real dramatic pulse. Jules and Grayson have decided against having any children. The show seems to be content with keeping Bobby an aimless, zen drifter. And there's really nothing of value in Ellie's marriage to Andy.
Of course, the show's power is in its comedy and its silliness, and this might be able to sustain the series for a while. But the comedy has been threaded delicately around a spine of sincerity; in order for Cougar Town to continue on in the long run, it'll need to maintain its heart.
The touching moments are not limited to the Jules and Grayson pairing; Jules and Travis, for instance, have had some of the sweetest scenes on the show. Ditto for Bobby and either Jules or Travis — in fact, Bobby's recent admission of guilt to Jules for treating her poorly while they were married was heartbreaking. But a consistent, ever-growing storyline like Jules' relationship with her beady-eyed next-door neighbor seems necessary to keep the show lively.
Cougar Town is a laugh a minute, but it needs something to pad Penny Can jokes and unsubtle Scrubs references. So, root for Trav and Laurie! Root for Bobby's continued exploration of his inner-grief! Root for unappreciated neighbor Tom to go nuts and hold everyone hostage! That'd actually be a compelling story arc. If any show can handle going really dark, it's this one. It has already abandoned one premise...
[Image Credit: ABC]