Break out your Big Carls — the cul de sac crew is back. “Cougar Town” fans deserve a giant glass of wine for having to wait until Valentine’s Day for their adored show to return for its third season. ABC has shown no love to the comedy from creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel (“Scrubs”), leaving it off the midseason schedule in favor of the insipid “Work It.”
Well, now that “Work It” (not surprisingly) flopped, the loyal “Cougar Town” supporters — fans similar to those of a conspicuously missing comedy about community college on NBC — get a pretty great premiere episode. And this is coming from someone who isn’t a big fan of the series; Courteney Cox’s characters have always kind of annoyed me.
Anyway, the return has some pretty standard “Cougar Town” moments: There’s yet another way to drink wine, Laurie (Busy Philipps) in trouble for being imprudent (spoiler alert: ankle monitor) and Jules (Cox) being made fun of for being a predictable control freak, mainly by her boyfriend Grayson (Josh Hopkins).
There are some pleasingly wacky side stories too, but what impressed me most wasn’t the humor — the two episodes I saw had plenty of laughs — it was the heart on display in “Cougar Town.” The premiere’s ending wasn’t as clever as the final act in the best episodes of “Community,” but it had a very similar tenderness without feeling schmaltzy. It’s quite perfect for everybody’s favorite Hallmark holiday.
If “Cougar Town” can continue being heartfelt without going overboard, something the series has been guilty of before, it may succeed in its new timeslot (without a “Modern Family” lead-in). And it may even earn new viewers who aren’t merely looking to check out the sport of the future — Penny Can.