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Guest Star Goodness

Guest Star Goodness: Ken Jenkins as Chick, Cougar Town “Hard On Me” 

Photo Credit: Darren Michaels/TBS
Photo Credit: Darren Michaels/TBS

I always enjoy when a notable guest star joins a show and that guest star infuses something different into the show for the main cast to play off of. Ken Jenkins isn’t just any guest star of course: He returns as Jules’ father Chick, and his lack of motivation after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis prompts Jules to get him off the couch to train the group for a 5K run.

Of course, the idea sounds great on paper, but it’s quickly revealed that Chick trains at two speeds: zero or turbo and Jules doesn’t want her father to return home so she wants turbo, to the rest of the groups dismay. I like how this story intertwines with Ellie being sick, which leads to each member of the Cul-De-Sac Crew (minus Grayson because he’s off pursuing his acting dreams in a testosterone boosting commercial) bailing on the training and allowing Ellie to get them sick. It’s a great way to get Jules in Chick alone, which I think is the best thing for the episode. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the horror genre aspect on display when everyone gets sick, but it’s a Cougar Town gag I can get on board with, especially since it doesn’t dominate “Hard On Me.”

The obvious component of “Hard On Me” that works is between Jules and Chick. Jules has had enough with the hard training from her father, but the way Courteney Cox and Jenkins play the scene and eventually make up is what makes this pairing such a joy to watch. One of the things Cougar Town does so well is balance the humor with the sentimental, something we know Jenkins can do well from his work on Scrubs. It also doesn’t come off as being too cheesy because the sentimentality comes from a father/daughter pairing. This wouldn’t work on other shows with different sensibilities, but Cougar Town has been on long enough to earn these moments and it’s what makes “Hard On Me” the best episode of the season thus far.

All in all, Cougar Town has gotten itself in such a nice groove with its main cast that when it brings in a guest star like Jenkins it doesn’t lose a beat. Sometimes this isn’t the case with other shows, but when you have a show where one of its creators is Bill Lawrenece (who is no longer an everyday contributor on the show), and said creator also createdScrubs, which Jenkins was on, you can just insert a character like Chick in any given episode and everything just works. It’s why so many creators—when they start working on other shows—use actors from their previous work because they know how to write for them and they know how the actors will perform in whatever world they choose to write them into. It’s also why Cougar Town has continued to be one of the most consistently entertaining comedies on television: It knows what works and what doesn’t and rarely do they venture too far away from what makes this show so fun to watch.

Cougar Town airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on TBS.

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