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.
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).
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.
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.