Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Cougar Town co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence kicked off the winter TCA press tour this morning by offering up some wisecracks about ABC, the former home of his comedy that has since found a new home at TBS. Lawrence thanked TBS chief Michael Wright (who was onstage as part of the network’s panel) for keeping a show alive that Lawrence “has been trying to kill for years.” He also joked about his feelings regarding ABC’s promotion of Cougar Town by saying that now that the show has moved, “I’m actually seeing ads” for the series. Later in the session, Lawrence quipped that the series’ crew still loves ABC and Disney: “They are still the producers and owners of the show, and I think they are doing a great job.”
During the opening panel, Lawrence and new executive producer Ric Swartzlander concentrated on assuring the press that while the series has moved, it will remain the same. “Transition-wise it was easy because Michael is actually a fan of the show unless he is a really a good liar.… He said I just want you do deliver the same show…other than that there is a little nudity, that’s the only thing. We’ve shifted from Brian Van Holt not wearing his shirt all the time to Josh Hopkins not wearing his shirt all the time.” Both exec producers said TBS wanted to buy Cougar Town as-is, rather than revamp it. “A lot of shows have had weird life spans,” Lawrence said. He added, “Unless you are lucky enough to be a hit today, our goal in network TV and off-network TV is simply to stay alive.”
Swartzlander said he did a weekend marathon of watching the show to prepare for his new role. “It’s a different situation for me; it’s the first time I’ve come in to try to keep a show going as opposed to starting something new,” he said. “TBS wanted the same show that they had [at ABC]. They were basically saying to me, don’t screw it up. They were basically saying we don’t want to see your fingerprints on it at all.”
Lawrence added that a title change for the show was not considered. “It’s part of the humor of the show — we wear it as a badge of honor, ” he said. “I still enjoy mocking it and doing the title cards, much in the same way as the chalkboard has become a common thing with The Simpsons. Being filled with self-loathing is characteristic of 90% of the world of comedy writers anyway, to continue on that tack with the title Cougar Town is part of the game for us now. I’ve embraced it. It’s an amazing title. I’d do it again.”