Five seasons into Cougar Town, creator Bill Lawrence knows not to mess with something that works. And Cougar Town — in all of its wine-soaked, zany, fun glory — works.
That’s why you won’t see a fifth season, which premieres tonight on TBS, full of curve balls or too many guest stars (save one, which we’ll get to). “In the past, when I’ve had shows that go on for a long time — like the 6 or 7th year of Scrubs— I’ve thrown curveballs into it that ultimately weren’t satisfying,” says Lawrence, who handed over daily duties to new showrunner Blake McCormick this season. “And one of the things we like is that this is a hang-out show and quite honestly there hasn’t been a ton of episodes yet. So we’re in a place where we’re still happy to kind of just hang out with these busy, open a bottle of wine and hopefully drink along with them.”
That said, this season of Cougar Town is packed with fun, which Lawrence and star Courteney Cox detailed for EW. Here are the highlights:
+ On Matthew Perry’s guest spot
Lawrence: “This is my personal view of television, you can tell me if you think I’m wrong. I think that when you do stuff like putting Matthew and Courteney back together in an episode, you have to both give fans what the probably want if they are psychotic fans of when those two were together [on Friends] and try to do it in a way that people haven’t done it a thousand times. So that’s kind of the burden — throwing those two into a situation where they can do some romantic comedy banter and we have the benefit of making it weird since Courteney is already married to another character…The biggest thing I can tell you [about the plotline] is that Courteney might be going along with something romantically with this guy just to get herself out of financial trouble. So it’s a funny story. She’s playing along hoping her problem will go away. It gets out of control.”
Cox: “The thing I loved about having him on this show was the episode he’s in — [which] is sort of one of the bigger ones we’ve done production wise — he’s such a pro, and always up for anything, and even though there were some pretty long, crazy days, the cast and crew loved having him here and it was a really fun week.
+ On seeing more of Bob Clendenin’s Tom this season
Lawrence: “In my personal opinion, in the fifth year of a TV show, we generally don’t do a lot of huge guest stars as much as we just play with friends and family that we’ve met before. Two of my favorite things we did this year was bring in Ken Jenkins on the show more because I loved working with him on Scrubs and the other one is that we made Bob Clendenin a series regular. He’s been on the show five years, he’s hysterically funny, and he earned it.” (Bonus scoop: In an upcoming episode you’re going to learn that Tom has made a mini version of the cul du sac and the whole gang. “That’s the most money we’ve spent on an prop for an episode all year,” says Lawrence. “By the way, I could sit around and play with that thing all day, forever. But it’s also incredibly creepy and upsetting.”)
+ On Travis (Dan Byrd) and Laurie’s (Busy Philipps) new relationship
Lawrence: “They’re a big part of the finale this year. The burden of that for Blake and all of us is that putting them together as a couple in a way that would satisfy people who wanted that to happen and at the same time, not overdo it so that people who think it’s not good for the show don’t get disturbed. So it is an element in the show and peaks at the end of the year, but we tried really hard not to lean into it too hard and get comedy out of how much it freaks everybody around them out and how everybody has to learn how to deal with it.”
+ On Jules and Grayson (Josh Hopkins)
Lawrence: “I think that the biggest thing that arcs through the [season] is we left on something last year with her father. Look, when we decided the show wasn’t about Courteney Cox hooking up with young 20 year olds any more and it was really about how people in their 40s wallow away the time drinking wine and your friendships are all that sustain you, we decided to write highly comedic versions of what it’s like to deal with that stuff. And one of them we started last year was what do you do when your parents gets older and needs a caretaker. That becomes a huge element for Grayson and Jules. We established comically that Grayson is a very private guy and one of his nightmares is how his family is kind of on top of him anyway. And we’ve also established how close [Jules] is with her dad. So that’s kind of the arc we trace with those two as he reaches the point where he might need to move in with them.”
Cox: “It’s definitely something that has a presence throughout the season, and we know it’s on Jules’ mind, but she also has a young marriage, a son graduating college and of a course a group of friends to keep up with. But I will say, toward the end of this season we have a similarly poignant episode, or two, and I think the fans will like where we take the story between Jules and her father.”
+Courteney Cox on one of her favorite episodes this season
Cox: “So far one of my favorites was an episode about Jules going on a spiral- questioning the sort of ‘magic’ in her relationship, after noticing what a great couple Travis and Laurie are — and not to give too much away, but it involves brunch, stunts, and someone’s hair catches on fire.”
Cougar Town airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.