Most of the time, growing up sucks. And even though we tend to look at adulthood in a specific sort of way in this culture, people can still have a lot of growing up to do well into their 40s. This is especially true for television comedy characters, who are often broad, wacky versions of people who probably wouldn’t exist in the real world. The folks that occupy the world of Cougar Town most certainly fit this arrested development sort of vibe, and even though most the episodes deal with Jules and company acting like complete fools, there’s still an underlying sense of maturation, particularly with a few characters. The characters stuck in a perpetual state of immaturity (Bobby in particular) often discuss what it means to grow up or change their ways, whether they actually do that or not is not necessary. Meanwhile, the more “adult” characters like Jules spend a lot of time acting like insane people, as if they’re letting loose after the hard knock life that was late 20s and early 30s. Clearly, the Cobb marriage was a dysfunctional one.
In any event, this week’s second episode did a nice job of suggesting small steps of maturity in all of its stories, leading to an effort that might have been a bit less funny than Monday’s “Walls,” but is ultimately a better episode altogether. These aren’t people who are going to dramatically change, develop or grow up. The main appeal of the series is how insanely wacky they can act, and I cannot imagine that shifting in the future. But despite that inherent pressure to not change on the framework of the series, episodes like this one do a nice job of presenting at least the possibility of change. Sometimes, those changes come all on your own, through hard work, resolve, etc. Other times, you might need a bit of push to get there. And even other times, other people might be suggesting you change in a way you don’t really want to. “Baby’s a Rock N’Roller” presents all three of these stories in a fairly successful fashion.
Of these three stories, I found Bobby’s attempts to wake up on time for practice a prestigious golf course to be the most effective. This is mostly because anything with Bobby is often hilarious and his various plans to help himself wake up at 5 a.m. did not disappoint. The lengths this man was willing to go to just to wake up early is something to be commended, even if it is entirely goofy and ridiculous. That’s my favorite kind of Cougar Town, so it’s probably no surprise I liked this story best. Bobby is the series’ most cartoonish character, and while that can be problematic at times, it actually works wonders when trying to break a story that’s about his “development.” Because he’s so wild and zany, it’s really easy to dial it back and show signs of progression or maturity. And Bobby most certainly has his own sort of charm about him when he tries to accomplish something, as these sort of stories always evoke a sad puppy stumbling around in the yard looking for a bone or something. Having Travis help Bobby in the end only slightly undercuts Bobby’s development because it’s really the thought and attempt that matters at this point. Plus, the father and son scenes are always fun.
That similar sort of thinking applies to Laurie as well. She’s most certainly the second broadest character on the series and so her stories often follow the same kind of beats as Bobby’s do. Here, she starts to realize that the relationship she had with Smith turned her off from clubbing, which leads Andy to believe that she’s actually ready for a long-term serious-kind of thing. There have been a few times this season where the series has suggested that Laurie has some emotions under that insanely dense facade and I think I liked this one the best. Of course, like the story with Bobby this one has its cake and eats it too by hinting at a long-term development that ultimately gives away to a great comic set-piece that totally undermines it. In the end, Laurie decides that she might not like clubbing, but she still loves one-night stands and the walk of shame. Hey, it’s a baby step.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t totally hooked on the A-story. It was nice of the series to comment on the fact that Ellie and Andy do indeed have a young child, but from there it didn’t really sell me as much as it could have. This is a lame criticism, but I found the BABY INSANITY sequences fairly tepid, boring and unfunny, which took me out of it. I hate using “unfunny!” as a major criticism, but that’s really the only thing I could think of while watching that sequence unfold. I really liked the conclusion of the story, especially how it flipped the usual Grayson-Jules dynamic in that he’s the one who wants the more traditional relationship “stuff” (in this case, a child), but I’m not totally sure the episode did enough work to get there. Again, it is not massive plot development so the lack of success does not ruin the episode for me. And really, I liked that the episode made the effort to do a story like that to begin with.
All and all, this was a really solid episode. It was a bit quieter and subdued than the series’ usual fare, especially compared to “Walls,” but that’s just fine. You need episodes like this every once in a while.