You shouldn’t judge a show by its (horrible) title – or, how Cougar Town gained two new fans

I’ll admit it – I was one of those people who were turned off of Cougar Town because of its name. I’ve been a fan of Bill Lawrence’s since his Spin City days, but with Cougar Town I only had watched a few episodes here and there, never regularly.

Then I started hearing more about it – first it was with ABC keeping it off the fall schedule, then it was with them reducing its episode order, and then finally still not setting a mid-season return date. This was not necessarily good publicity, but it did make me intrigued and curious about this show. I knew Community’s Abed loved it, so why couldn’t I too?

Cougar Town boss Lawrence wanted to keep the series top of mind for viewers, and provide a thank you to those who waited patiently for its return. He announced a series of non-ABC sanctioned fan-appreciation events to be held across the country paid for by him and with each event featuring at least one cast member and one writer.

Events were scheduled for cities where cast members and writers were likely to be over the holidays, and one even took place near my hometown in Louisville, Kentucky (cast member Josh Hopkins is from Lexington). Since I didn’t travel to Kentucky for the holidays this year, my only chance to attend was here in Los Angeles, and luckily enough I did get invited to the Jan. 12 event held where the show is filmed, at the Culver Studios.

Jules' real estate office at the Cougar Town set in Culver City, Calif.

Wow, what an experience. It was more than I ever could have expected – the cast (minus one) and writers were there, and Bill Lawrence wandered around the crowd introducing himself and letting everyone know they could ask him anything.

If I had to give a quick synopsis of the event, it would be this: free booze, penny can, open access, never-ending smile. (And I won penny can three times…but kept getting scolded because I forgot to actually say it when I did).

Bill Lawrence plays penny can with Cougar Town fans at the Jan. 12 fan appreciation event

As we played penny can I asked how he got started in Hollywood. His answer – came here at 21, started painting houses during the day and writing whenever he could. Again during the Q&A when someone asked about his writing process he gave the advice to write every day even if you thought it was going nowhere. Basically, he said there are those who say they write and there are those that actually write. You have to be in the latter category. So simple, yet also a needed kick in the butt for me to follow that.

From left to right...Brian Van Holt, Christa Miller, Josh Hopkins, Courtney Cox, Bill Lawrence, Kevin Biegel, Dan Byrd

The cast (minus Busy Phillips who was preparing for the Golden Globes) was there mingling with fans too, and Lawrence kept telling those of us talking to him to talk to them too, to not be intimidated. It wasn’t that I was scared to talk to the likes of Brian Van Holt, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins and others, and I did much later, but I was in the presence of a comedy writing icon and I didn’t want to leave that.

Next there was a question & answer session followed by cast-led tours of the sets & studio. During the q&a session there was a lot of talk about Cougar Town’s longevity once it returns, and though there has been understandable frustration at not being on before now this season, there is confidence that the show will continue on for many more seasons after this one. They also talked about the title, and though Lawrence apologized for being the one to come up with it, they said that it was not changing and they were just going to embrace how awful it was.

We then moved on to the tour, and we were split up into groups of about 10 – 15 each and led around by a cast member. Our tour guide, Brian Van Holt (Travis), led us first straight to the bar where he did rum shots with those who were in the front with him. In addition to being personable and knowledgable, he also dropped a $20 into the bar tip jar and told us we were covered.

At some point our tour group led by Brian Van Holt merged with the tour group led by Dan Byrd.

Seeing the sets where the cul-de-sac crew “live” was cool, but for me nothing compared to the fantastic opportunity to visit the Cougar Town writers’  room. I had a great conversation with one of the writers, Mary Fitzgerald, about how she got started in the business and how Cougar Town is one of the few shows to have a decent male/female writer staff split.

We visited the Cougar Town writers' room, which was one big white board with ideas and storyboards of upcoming shows.

 After the excitement of meeting the cast and crew, and visiting the sets and writers’ room, we had a chance to view two upcoming episodes from Season 3 while sitting along the “streets” of Gulfhaven, Florida. And I have to say, that even though I had never watched Cougar Town much before, my husband and I are now CT converts and these two new fans are now waiting along with those of you who have known about this great show longer for their return to television. And, thanks to the free bar at the event, I went home and purchased Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD so I could be caught up when it does return.
A big thank you to Bill Lawrence and everyone involved with the Cougar Town event. You now have two new fans because of your party. Let’s do it again for Season 4!

About amy@smalltowntelevision

Small town girl living in a big city world, talking about television and other media depictions of small town or blue collar communities (whether they be literal or figurative). Thirtysomething (age, not the show). Likes: accurate portrayals of small town or blue collar life (Friday Night Lights, The Middle, Roseanne, Justified). Kentucky basketball. Game shows. Ice cream. Dislikes: media depictions of hillbilly culture. The word hillbilly. Duke basketball. Squid.

Posted on January 15, 2012, in Comedy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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