Producer Mike Fleiss has scored in TV terms with “The Bachelor,” so it’s not surprising he’s willing to clone its DNA, yielding predictable and tiresome results. Following 40-year-old Realtor Stacey Anderson as she chooses from among a bevy of boys in their 20s, “The Cougar” saunters up after NBC’s “Age of Love” took its own whack at what this new TV Land show pretentiously calls “a cultural phenomenon that’s changing the entire dating scene.” Somehow I must have missed the sociologists on staff, but it looks just like another dating show, only with younger guys and a slightly older gal.
“Men have been dating younger women forever,” Stacey, a blond and trim mother of four, coos near the outset. “It is time to turn those tables.”
Actually, men have been doing it for so long that we don’t have to subject ourselves to embarrassing exercises structured around the notion that the whole May-September thing is a big deal, so there.
The dudes range in age from 21 to 29, and aside from a set of twins (somebody should hit Coors up for a product tie-in), they’re a fairly loutish, unimpressive bunch who aren’t particularly subtle about wanting some “alone time” with Stacey. In fact, they collectively give host Vivica A. Fox a good long leer when she first marches out. “Feast your eyes on Stacey,” she purrs, working the script a little too hard.
About the only new wrinkle — and in this context I use “wrinkle” with trepidation — is the manner in which Stacey dismisses contestants, dubbed the “kiss-off.” Each fellow approaches her, with Stacey planting a wet one on the guys she likes and haughtily turning her cheek to those she’s ousting — an awkward and slightly humiliating ritual even by the genre’s standards.
TV Land has made a concerted push to achieve a younger profile with original reality shows, but “The Cougar” manages to feel neither original nor real. That said, given the channel’s demo, it’s probably not a bad fantasy for women able to ignore all that and live vicariously through Stacey’s choice — glancing at their paunchy, middle-aged, a-six-pack-is-for-drinking husbands and quietly thinking, “I am cougar. Hear me roar.”