Most ABC shows don’t have to launch and finance their own full-scale publicity tour, but then most shows aren’t like Cougar Town — the adults-only confection that has yet to earn a spot on the network’s midseason lineup.
Rather than sit around and wait for ABC to talk up the comedy, creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel have decided to shoulder the responsibility themselves. They’ve begun hosting nationwide screenings in hopes that fans will do what the network can’t — encourage more people to watch one of the most endearing (though ratings-challenged) shows on TV.
Having already made the rounds in Sarasota, Atlanta, Louisville and San Diego, Cougar Town on Friday treated 150 fans to free booze and two new episodes at the show’s home studio in Culver City, CA. Save for Busy Philipps — who was on her way to Chicago for another screening — the rest of the ensemble was there to share some laughs and riff on the new season. (Spoilers! Jules comes to the realization that she’s way too predictable; Travis requires a helmet, Ellie and Andy discover their son is the anti-Christ, and lots of ex-Scrubs members come for a visit).
The entire cast will also travel to Pasadena, CA on Monday to talk to the nation’s TV critics at a cocktail party paid for by the creators. That will occur on the night before the press meets with network topper Paul Lee — the guy who blessed the decision to postpone the return of Cougar Town this season.
“This is what I know to be a fact,’ Lawrence told EW at Friday’s screening. “If I can turn out the same audience that enjoys the show for the first two years, this show will be on for six or seven years. But it’s also an experiment. At the end of each party, you’ll hear a speech, we’ll say thank you and give them shirts, and ask them to both watch the show when it’s on, and to tell 10 or 20 people to give it a shot. If we can move the dial, even two-tenths of a point, it will be something that changes the way people market their shows.”
The good news is that Lawrence and the cast may not have to shrug their shoulders much longer when fans ask when the single-camera comedy starring Courteney Cox (pictured above, with co-stars Christa Miller, Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, Dan Byrd, and Ian Gomez) is coming back. Word on Work It is that the new ABC comedy may be yanked sooner than later. (News flash! Its premiere ratings positively sucked). So there’s a good chance that Cougar Town could return a lot earlier than March, when Lawrence originally expected his show to return.
But he remains committed to helping to boost the show’s ratings with screenings he will pay for himself. (Blissfully, some hotels and liquor vendors are already coming on board to help offset the cost). Lawrence’s goal is to hit 30 cities. “We are very close to having the ability to market the show ourselves and to get it to a number that will stay on. It’s a huge country. If you get two and a half million using social media and word of mouth between the ages of 18-49, it’s on for seven years. That’s so different from when I started on TV.”
More viewing parties are planned for Austin, Las Vegas, Boston, New York, London (!), and others. Once specific dates and cities are announced, fans should email Lawrence at (name of city)email@example.com. (Example: For the Chicago viewing party, email firstname.lastname@example.org).