Courteney Cox was one of the funniest actors on Friends, one of the funniest sitcoms ever. So how can she be the least funny actress of the new TV season? In Cougar Town (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) she stars as Jules, a recently divorced 40-year-old who wants to have sex with much younger men, including high school boys her son's age. Maybe someone could find the laughs in that premise, but not the sleazy producers of Cougar Town. They seem to think any punchline is automatically funny if it contains the word "boobs."
Jules sees a shirtless kid at the high school football game and screams, "I want to lick his body!" Later, she opens her bathrobe to flash a schoolboy passing by on a bicycle. Then she strikes a pornographic pose on a sign for her Realtor business, causing a rash of masturbation among middle school males. When Jules' son catches her in the act with a young stud, you realize that Cougar Town would portray sex with a goat if the producers thought they could sell a few ads around it.
I can't think of a punchline to end this blurb, so if you'll please forgive me: Boobs!
Monday, 8 pm (NBC)
In this new medical-emergency series, a guy is graphically electrocuted in a shower of sparks. Paramedics arrive and stick various tubes into his burned body in extreme closeup. A helicopter crashes in a huge fireball, killing several people.
And that's just the first five minutes.
Trauma doesn't offer much in the way of character and plot. It just keeps the accidents coming. Soon after the first fireball, we get another one when a gasoline truck explodes on a highway. It throws a piece of shrapnel through a little boy's throat as his mother screams wildly. Later, a guy's finger is cut off in a car crash.
With so much fiery disaster in the first episode, it's hard to imagine what's left for Trauma to cover in week two. Beheadings, I suppose.
Wednesday, 7 pm (NBC)
Taylor Schilling is striking as Veronica, a nurse who returns to her old hospital job after a horrific tour in Iraq. She powerfully communicates a working-class woman's frustrations and vulnerability, not to mention the volcanic anger bubbling at the core.
Schilling is a star in the making, but Mercy is not a worthy vehicle. Rather than trusting Veronica to hold our interest, the script flings out sickening medical emergencies, dumb comedy and extreme melodrama - anything that might stick to the wall. That includes lots and lots of sex. Every few seconds, some medical professional grabs a gorgeous nurse passing by for a wild make-out session.
Clearly, I've been going to the wrong hospitals.
Wednesday, 8 pm (ABC)
This sitcom follows three unhappy families. We meet a bickering gay couple, a bickering old dude and his Colombian spitfire wife, and a bickering husband and wife with quarrelsome kids. I could have told ABC that the incessant nastiness would make for an unpleasant series, and I would have charged much less than their high-priced Hollywood consultant.
Among the clichés, we get the clueless dad (Ty Burrell) who thinks he can "rap" with his kids because he knows their language - for example, that "lol" means "laugh out loud." His reference to "laugh" was the only time that word crossed my mind during the entire half-hour.
Wednesday, 9 pm (ABC)
ABC resurrects an old property: John Updike's novel about three witches and their devilish mentor, previously adapted in a 1987 movie. The movie was brilliant with star power, including Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson. The new series, by contrast, pulses dimly with Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price and Jamie Ray Newman, who don't make much of an impression as New England women tapping into their inner sorceress. Paul Gross is supposed to be at once charming, sexy and obnoxious as the mysterious stranger who transforms their lives, but unlike Nicholson, he can only nail the obnoxious part.
Eastwick offers old-fashioned sexism dressed up as female empowerment. The women are useless without the help of a powerful man. Their transformation into witches is really a transformation into Playboy-style fantasy objects who turn on all the menfolk. In a particularly revolting scene, one of the enchanted women gets hot and horny right after an attempted rape on her daughter.
Are there any real witches out there who can zap Eastwick with a bolt of lightning?