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The Hollywood Reporter: With a couple weeks of premieres outof the gate, how are you feeling about your shows’ chances thisseason?
Bill Lawrence: I’m optimistic because it seems people areactually checking out shows this season, whereas last year it feltlike audiences were gone for good. Best-case scenario: All of themwork, including mine. Second-best case: At least somebody’s showworks and gets a toehold, which would be good for comedy writers.
THR: “Cougar Town” is debuting in a two-hour block of newcomedies. Is this the best way to attract an audience?
Lawrence: Network television executives cling to old modelslike somebody hanging off a cliff. The old rule is all about yourlead-in and your lead-out. I don’t think people watch TV that wayanymore. People are going to check out shows regardless of wherethey are. The thing I always cling to — and “Arrested Development”is the exception that proves the rule — is I can’t put my fingeron a really funny, well-executed comedy that’s failed during thepast several years. Good shows seem to survive.
THR: What do you think the fan reaction to the new “Scrubs”is going to be?
Lawrence: I’ve worked with the same 110 people every season,and I asked them if they wanted to keep going. They said, “Hellyeah.” Nobody was excited to hit the pavement in this climate.There’s a risk of people hating it. It will feel like a differentshow. If it doesn’t work, it won’t suck in a lame, fizzle-out way;it will suck in a grand they-never-should-have-tried-it-that way. Iknow the odds are stacked against it.
THR: And “Cougar Town”?
Lawrence: With “Cougar Town,” I’m happy with the product.There’s so many factors out of your control about whether it willwork or not. When I was a little kid, I was obsessed when it cameto sports. I would stand outside staring at the sky hoping for therain to stop. My dad would say, “You can’t worry about theweather.”
THR: Wouldn’t you prefer it if ABC gave you the Chuck Lorretreatment and paired “Cougar Town” and “Scrubs” for a Bill Lawrencehour?
Lawrence: Chuck Lorre. Man, that guy’s figured it out. He’scrushing it, and it’s so weird other networks aren’t rushing tomake more multicamera shows. Only on the coasts do we think it’s atired medium. You have all these kids growing up watching “Wizardsof Waverly Place” and “Hannah Montana” — these are huge shows andclassic multicamera.
THR: There was some reworking of “Cougar Town.” Was thatpartly for risque content?
Lawrence: We didn’t get fleeced on its risque nature. What Idid would be rated at worst PG-13. You have these shows on cablelike “True Blood” where it’s gratuitous violence andpossessed-by-the-devil orgies, so it seems unfair to get pegged forsomething that’s so tame by comparison. The pilot was supposed tobe in the voice of a 40-year-old woman, and (at first) it soundedlike me writing for JD and Turk (on “Scrubs”). Nowadays, 9,000people have written about your show before you have a finishedproduct.
THR: After the fallout over “Scrubs” moving from NBC to ABC,would you develop a show for NBC again?
Lawrence: Man, I’d do a show with anybody. We cling to thepast when talking about this person not getting along with NBC,then stuff changes in like two weeks. Looking back on NBC, now thatI’m away from it, it’s like, “I bitched and moaned about a networkthat kept my show on for seven years?” Seems ludicrous. Not sure ifanybody there would want to work with me. I only got two morebridges to burn.
THR: You have a pretty stressful job. How do you continue tolook boyish?
Lawrence: Incredibly long bangs. If you push up my hair, itlooks like Kevin Spacey in “The Usual Suspects.” I could get abald-guy haircut and look like a 50-year-old man in half an hour.
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