BETTER WITH AGE
The Good Wife and Cougar Town have a little more in common than you might think, says
than fulfi ls the promise of its premise, while the other – while not a complete dud – takes the easy route all too often.
Let’s start with The Good Wife, which has a terrifi c central concept springing from a thought-provoking image: the supportive spouse standing by a disgraced public fi gure.
It happens all over the world, of course, but we’re mainly used to it coming from America, and usually from US politicians or public servants who are seemingly required to make a public plea for forgiveness when they’ve been busted with their fi ngers in the till or some other body part where it shouldn’t be.
Invariably male, this public fi gure will usually have a wife standing next to them, silently off ering their support. But what would be going through her mind, especially if her husband is confessing an infi delity to the world?
For Alicia Florrick ( ER’s Julianna Margulies), it’s a surreal moment as her husband Peter ( Sex and the City’s Chris Noth), a highpowered state’s attorney, comes clean to the media about his part in a scandal involving the misuse of public money, some of which was spent on prostitutes.
But when Peter confi dently claims behind closed doors that the whole thing will soon blow over, the world snaps back into focus for Alicia. And in a moment that inspires applause, she slaps her errant husband’s face.
With Peter behind bars but looking to overturn his conviction, it’s up to Alicia to return to the workforce after more than a decade in order to provide for her two children and pay an ever-mounting stack of legal bills.
Landing a junior position at a law fi rm is a good start but while coming to terms with her new job and new role as sole provider, Alicia also has to tackle the suspicion, condescension and backstabbing of old friends and new colleagues.
It’s a terrifi c part for Margulies, whose natural reserve and elegance serves as a brilliant disguise for the raging emotions Alicia keeps under wraps but can’t completely suppress.
Cougar Town’s Jules, a 40-something single mother played by former Friends star Courteney Cox, is another sister doing it for herself, although her ex-husband is a charming deadbeat rather than an imprisoned embezzler.
And her woes are personal more than professional, with Jules believing that her “ advanced” years have left her terribly unattractive to the opposite sex.
And eventually Jules decides to embrace life as a cougar, a middle-aged woman on the prowl for younger men, much to the delight of her friends and much to the chagrin of her teenage son, Travis ( Dan Byrd).
There’s a good, honest idea at the heart of Cougar Town – that as the years go by, we start to wonder about the directions we’ve taken in life and whether it’s too late to change course – and the show occasionally nails that, thanks to some nifty writing and solid performances ( especially by Cox, no stranger to fi ring off a sharp one-liner).
Too often, though, it relies on tired, tawdry gags that reinforce rather than play against the stereotype of the desperate cougar. “ Why don’t you laugh at my jokes?” Jules asks Travis at one stage, to which he gives a reply that some viewers of Cougar Town can relate to: “ Because they make me sad.”
Sister act: Cox ( centre) and Julianna Margulies ( inset).