Last night’s Cougar Town serves as an effective bridge between the show’s ABC run and its upcoming TBS one, gently closing out the show’s Jules-and-Grayson wooing phase with a sweet and appropriate sitcom wedding. There’s no reason to think the show can’t make the leap to basic cable with its quirks and silliness intact, but “My Life/Your World” did point to one major issue the show needs to confront and soon: Travis and Laurie.
Since the beginning, Dan Byrd and Busy Phillips have played up the flirtatiousness of their characters’ banter, and each season has nudged the characters a little closer together. Finally last night, after years of build-up and several close calls, Travis confessed his love in a drunken haze of confidence and nudity. But even that didn’t seem to resolve much of anything, followed as it was by meaningful glances and good-natured mutual understanding.
Bill Lawrence said in an interview today that even he is torn about what to do with the pair. “We are so split. [Co-creator Kevin Biegel] and I are split. The writer’s room is split. The actors are split. The only real decision we made was that we weren’t going to do anything yet,” he says. “Hopefully it won’t come off as a stall.” But it did come off as a stall, on account of totally being a stall.
The waiting with these two is not sweet sorrow. Travis and Laurie aren’t just a will-they-or-won’t-they TV couple, they’re a should-they-or-shouldn’t-they couple, and that setup does not benefit from being dragged out over seasons and seasons. Cougar Town already has a central romance, and it’s not as if Travis and Laurie are hurting for their own story lines or character traits. The show does not need these two together for story purposes.
An informal poll suggests the overwhelming majority of Cougar fans would love to see Travis and Laurie get together. But that’s so fraught with disaster! Can you really be besties with someone who’s slept with your husband and your son? We’ve watched enough Maury Povich to learn that the answer is probably not, and Cougar Town has already tiptoed toward Greek tragedy territory with Travis hooking up with Grayson’s baby mama. Laurie’s well-established sunny sluttiness is one of the show’s go-to joke factories (for better, though often for worse), and Travis’s haplessness is part of what makes him so endearing. He worships her; she enjoys being worshipped. It’s the typical dork-dynamo relationship we’ve seen on a billion shows before. Part of what’s so charming about Cougar Town is the lengths it goes to subvert and play with sitcom chestnuts. A Travis-Laurie hookup undercuts all that inventiveness. Give Travis a substantive and funny love interest, and let’s move the hell on.