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The cast and crew of Cougar Town graced the stage Friday with a new energy.
“There are commercials for the show now. It’s insane,” quipped co-creator Bill Lawrence of his cult comedy, which will move from ABC to TBS for its fourth season Jan. 8. The comment, made at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, came after three years on broadcast, where Lawrence was often vocal about the lack of promotion his little watched critical darling garnered.
Lawrence — who stepped down as showrunner but remains a hands-on executive producer — and his cast went to great lengths to insist that Cougar Town’s viewers will get the same show that they have enjoyed for the past three seasons. The goal, he noted, is that the series’ audience will be able to watch reruns years from now and not be able to tell the difference between a season three episode and a season four episode.
To hear new showrunner Ric Swartzlander tell it, TBS executives had said they wanted him to come in and provide the series that his predecessors, Lawrence and co-creator Kevin Biegel, had delivered. “They were basically like, ‘Don’t screw it up. We don’t want to put your fingerprints on the show at all, and I think I pulled that off,’ ” he joked of his mandate. That the cast of the ABC Studios-produced series has remained intact has made that that much easier for Swartzlander, whose fourth season will focus on such storylines as Jules (Courteney Cox) and Grayson’s (Josh Hopkins) adjustment to married life and the evolving relationship between Laurie (Busy Phillips) and Jules’ son, Travis (Dan Byrd).
As for that pesky title that has long been the subject of digs – even Cougar Town’s title cards take jabs at a name no longer representative of the series’ premise — there was never any serious consideration to changing it in the move to cable. According to the network’s entertainment chief Michael Wright, doing so would be risky, particularly since they’re already asking viewers to find the series at a new time on a new network. What’s more, he said: “The title itself is part of the show’s humor.”
Lawrence suggested that he and his team now wear the title as a badge of honor. “Being filled with self-loathing is a characteristic of 90 percent of comedy writers anyway,” he added to big laughs, acknowledging that they have embraced the poor title after all of these years. “It’s an amazing title. I’d do it again.”
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