Having a deep ensemble of comedic performers is almost always a positive thing for any sitcom (or drama, for that matter). Obviously, putting together a cast full of humor-producers is better than relying on a few lead horses because it allows the series to rotate the focus on specific characters, concoct new pairings and develop new situations that lead to all sorts of new laughs that might not have been though possible before.
Cougar Town finds itself in this embarrassment of riches. Every member of the fairly large cast is at least funny and most of them are downright hilarious. This is a good thing.
But sometimes, like “The Damage You’ve Done,” the excess of performers and characters creates a log-jam issue where individual episodes are just too full of stories that none of them really connect together or get their due within the 21 minutes.
The excess of good performers might not necessarily be the only cause of the issues with ‘The Damage You’ve Done,’but perhaps the writers sometimes feel like they need to service all the characters in one episode without thinking of how it all comes together. The plots on this series always feel scattered and random, but this episode is particularly problematic because none of the stories really have any weight to them, even compared to normal, frivolous-but-fun Cougar Town standards.
It doesn’t help that the big element in the episode – Grayson slept with Laurie before he got with Jules – comes from a portion of the series’history that both we and the writers would probably like to forget. As someone who only checked in with the series periodically in season one, I barely remember this plot point and so to have it drive so much of the episode and to have the characters react it to in a more serious way than they usually do (this is a series with very, very low emotional stakes) felt weird for this new kind of Cougar Town. The reality show-style bits with Jules, Ellie, Grayson and Laurie were fun, but the whole thing still felt very disconnected from what we’ve been seeing.
And in a lot of ways, that’s how this whole episode felt. Bobby spends the whole episode mesmerized by a sword swallower, which though in line with his character, got a bit tired. One of Jules’old flames from back in the ‘Courtney Cox sleeping with younger dudes’era appears. And Andy has little to do but get his nails painted orange. In short, not the most successful episode of this series this season.
However, things are pulled together surprisingly well in the episode’s final moments when after constant prodding from Bobby, Smith realizes that he isn’t mad about Laurie hooking up with Grayson because he doesn’t actually care about her in the way she cares about him so he breaks up with her, leaving Laurie crying in Jules’backyard waiting for someone to console her. It’s a very touching moment, and again, one that doesn’t quite fit into how the series has tended to operate this season, but unlike the whole episode leading up to it, it completely works. Busy Phillips sells the moment with all sorts of gusto and even though their relationship has been fairly low-key, it’s totally believable that Laurie really does love Smith and she is truly heartbroken.
The series has done better this season, but sometimes, there’s just too much talent to go around.