If the upcoming third season of COUGAR TOWN should turn out to be the ABC comedies swan song, it sure as heck won’t be due to a lack of effort on co-creator Bill Lawrence’s part. For Lawrence, who developed the cult favorite alongside Kevin Biegel has spent the better part of the past month masterminding a grass-roots promotional campaign that has included everything from Paley Festival panels and Podcast appearances to multiple parties across the country including an unofficial open bar at the recent Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena. Which is precisely where we had the pleasure of catching up with Lawrence to find out, among other things, his odds for COUGAR TOWN seeing a season 4. See for yourself, after the jump.
What can you tease about this upcoming third season?
Bill Lawrence: Tuesday’s premiere kind of shapes the whole season. Once we knew we were going to be a midseason show, which was fairly early on, we quickly shifted gears and made the first episode like a third year pilot so that new people aren’t excluded. In terms of the title, we decided to keep it as a badge of honor only to eliminate every aspect of “cougars” from the show once and for all. We even married off Barb (Carolyn Hennesy) to Barry Bostwick!
Are you worried about a time slot that has the show airing after LAST MAN STANDING?
I don’t think people watch television that way anymore. I haven’t written a show in a long time with universal-CBS-every-single-person-mass-hit-across-the-middle show. I don’t seem to have that in my voice. But, with the shows that I have written, I’ve been lucky enough so far that they have a very devoted cult fan audience that follows them from timeslot to timeslot.
Over the past couple of months you’ve become your show’s biggest promoter. What was the impetus behind these self-funded viewing parties?
When I did SPIN CITY the difference between being on in the demo was 4 or 5 million people where as now the difference is 600,000. That small a number is not insurmountable and for us, these viewing parties were really about turning the old core audience back onto the show after a nine month hiatus by giving them content. The media also helps. I really believe awareness comes from the outside, not within the networks anymore. I don’t think they can launch their own stuff. They pick one drama and one comedy to put all their money behind every fall and that’s what they champion and it either works or it doesn’t.
What role does Twitter play into your game plan?
Twitter is a haven for TV nerds. Damon Lindelof makes me laugh, Shonda Rhimes makes me laugh and she champions our show which is insanely nice. I’m obsessed with writers taking control and promoting their own shows, which is one of the things that drove me in terms of all the whole COUGAR TOWN/COMMUNITY thing. Why wouldn’t you promote a show you like on another Network if they give it back to you and if they’re not your direct competition. I believe in my heart — you can’t tell in the nielsens — that a lot of COMMUNITY fans checked out our show and liked it while a lot of our fans checked out COMMUNITY and liked it.
Having already wrapped shooting your third season was it difficult to write a finale not knowing whether it was a season or a series finale?
We didn’t write a finale to the series. I fully expect the show to be back and I’d be shocked if it wasn’t. ABC owns the show, the bar is not very high as to what number we have to do to be back. I would be truly bummed out and shocked if we didn’t make it.
COUGAR TOWN returns on Tuesday February 14th at 8:30PM on ABC (CityTV in Canada)<