Monday, March 22, 2010

'Cougar Town' - Monica would be shocked

A friend of mine raved recently about Courtney Cox's new show, 'Cougar Town', so I sought it out online and watched the first episode, and I have to say, it was deliciously good. Its a little broader than the trailers suggested; Jules (Cox) is not just a sex obsessed predator chasing younger men all the time, rather, the main focus is Jules's attempt at rejoining the dating world; the men to whom she is attracted - and vice versa - simply happen to be half her age. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much - another small American town where everyone is tanned and beautiful and they're all obsessed with the local High School football team. Plus, based on the sexual nature of the trailer it seemed to be another string of TV shows launched on the back of Sex and the City - Lipstick Jungle, anyone? I recant though - from the mastermind behind Scrubs, Bill Lawrence, it ain't half bad.

I personally hope this one takes off for Cox, as her last attempt at shedding the Monica persona failed ('Dirt', in which her character was the polar opposite of neat freak Monica, was pulled after two seasons), although perhaps this could be attributed to the ill timing of the writers strikes.

It got me to thinking about the rest of 'em - the Friends, that is. Every now and again while watching Cougar Town, I couldn't help but think, "Monica... what are you doing to that boy?!" I think its been very difficult to erase the association with their characters and establish themselves in the acting world as anything else. Courtney Cox, as evidenced here, seems to have fared best - along with Jennifer Anniston, perhaps, whose marriage - and then divorce - with Brad Pitt catapulted her into the coveted A list.

David Schwimmer wasn't doing too badly prior to Friends - it seems to be following the show's demise that he had difficulty securing other work. As far as character association goes, Schwimmer does seem to have been able to leave Ross behind, notably playing Captain Herbert Sobel in 'Band of Brothers' - definitely a world away from goofy Ross. Following voice roles in 'Madagascar', Schwimmer seems to have made a move to theatre, having starred on Broadway and in the West End. he has also lent a hand a directing, and 'Run Fatboy Run' was a quietly successful comedy, and he's also directed a few eps of 'Little Britain USA'. Surprisingly, Will Smith's part in 'Men In Black' was originally offered to Schwimmer - perhaps he should have taken it.

Matt LeBlanc seemed to understand the difficulties of shaking off a well established character, and jumped on the bandwagon for as long as he could drive it. Spin off series 'Joey' looked set to be a hit for all those mourning the death of Friends - it raked in 18 million viewers on its first night. However, as many spin offs do, it failed miserably, and was pulled mid season in 2006. I don't think I've seen Matt LeBlanc since then. I never liked how stupid Joey got towards the end - it was comedic idiocy for the sake of it. That episode where he couldn't learn French was just ridiculous, I still switch the channel when it comes on.

I think Matthew Perry has had the most trouble getting rid of Chandler. Many of his roles post Friends - and even one or two during - were Chandler-esque; full of wry, dry humour, in other words. He had a guest role in Scrubs, where he played the sarcastic Murray, and a largely over-shadowed by Zac Effron supporting role in '17 Again'; his character was pessimistic and rather sarcastic. Perry's character in 'The Whole Nine Yards' was, again, of the dry humour type, although the film did do quite well, and Perry was praised. Its sequel flopped. Perry has attempted serious roles, and done quite well, in my opinion; Joe Quincy in 'The West Wing', anyone? I think the problem is people will insist on giving him Chandler-like characters, because he did it so well for ten years. I believe he is capable of far more, and I'm looking forward to his new series, 'Mr. Sunshine' (if it ever comes out). I hope it does better than his last attempt - the pilot for 'The End of Steve' was never picked up.

I'd almost forgotten about Lisa Kudrow - doesn't say much for her, does it? Although I found Phoebe quite irritating towards the end of Friends; she seemed to have lost her carefree hippy spark and was just being odd for the sake of odd. She was doing quite well for herself in the comedy world prior to Friends; again, it seems to be after that she has had trouble. Her supporting role in 'P.S. I Love You' had its moments - when her ditzy character Denise's make up fell off a boat, for example. But for the most part, it was forgettable. Following this were bit parts in the largely overshadowed by Emma Roberts's 'Hotel For Dogs' and Disney's teen dream team's 'Bandslam', starring Vanessa Hudgens and a few other teen cutie pies. She did 'Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion' about ten years ago while filming Friends, and this did - and continues to do - quite well. I think Kudrow is capable of far more than un-challenging bit parts in other star's movies. I hope something better comes along for her.

Sure I might as well go through Jennifer's Anniston's film career while I'm here then, although I think she's more known as 'Unlucky in love Jen, ditched by Brad', than anything else. She's certainly had a slew of successful movies, almost all romcoms, but none of which were particularly challenging for her acting skills. Bruce Almighty, Marley and Me, Along Came Polly, The Break Up, Rumour Has It, He's Just Not That Into You ... some of them had their momentary laughs, but her characters in just about all of them are, in my opinion, indistinguishable from one to the next. Financially, Anniston is a success, and has certainly made a good name for herself. But in terms of Oscar winning performances ... no. But she has a good niche; I'd stick with it, if I were her.

So some Friends are certainly more successful than others, although not through lack of trying. I think circumstance plays a big role in this. Would Jennifer Anniston be half as successful had she never married Brad Pitt? Matthew Perry, for example, is a superior actor, in my opinion, yet he struggles. Well, I use the term 'struggles' lightly; lets not forget how much our Friends were earning come the last season. I doubt any of them will be signing on the dole in the foreseeable future.

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