Cougar Town/Scrubs Creator Bill Lawrence Has a Lot to Say About the State of Network TV

Cougar Town/Scrubs showrunner Bill Lawrence's candor makes you want to pry at him all day. Following a spirited TCA panel where he sat alongside peers from The Middle and Modern Family and riffed on, among other things, Conan O'Brien's liberation and Cougar Town's questionable title, I -- along with the horde of journos -- found myself racking up only more questions. For instance, would he really change Cougar Town to C. Town, as he'd mentioned offhand? Was there real benefit to doing a ninth season of Scrubs? And when is this fragmented network TV viewership going to vault a scripted series to the heights of American Idol? All of Lawrence's answers were provocative, and he also found time to wax optimistic on Conan's future.

"Cougar" is a pretty du jour handle. Were you worried, when the show aired, that viewers wouldn't look past that word's obvious connotations, which have been explored on TV with some comprehension already?

There's a hi-lo to it. The upside of Cougar Town [the title] was it got people to check out the show, and I think for the people that did, the show pretty quickly evolved into a dysfunctional family show that wasn't a bad sketch of an older woman on Saturday Night Live pursuing younger guys. The downside is I guarantee you there are still people out there who have never checked it out because of both the connotations of the word and what they think the show is. For me, I haven't decided if it's a good or bad call yet. I'm always straight-out honest. I thought, man, in this landscape, call this show something that people are going to write about. Any attention is good attention. Now I find myself going, "If I could figure out a way to change the title to C. Town," you know what I mean? So it's still branded. And could keep moving forward. So maybe someone accidentally checks it out. I can't tell you the nicest things that people like yourselves have written -- I'll read a review, we get massive packets, and I'll follow it -- and they'll say, "I was pretty predisposed to hate this, and it actually turned out to be something different." That's the upside. The downside, is I don't know if I screwed us or not, titling it that.

Would you really consider changing the title? Were you joking?

No, I'm not joking. I don't think the show is what Courteney imagined it would be anymore. She's not out trying to hook up at whatever young hottie at the moment. She's having Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family, and she's the matriach of this big bunch of crazy characters. Maybe Courteney Town? After awhile, a title just becomes a title.

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  • blah says:

    Throwback sitcoms will save the networks? It may work while their existing, older audiences turn in; but it fails to attract younger viewers for the future. If we don't watch network television for our 20s and 30s why are we sudenly going to tune back in at 40?
    Network shows, with a few exceptions, are the elder-care of television. As the younger audiences have become more fragmented by the numerous choices on cable, the Networks have taken to fighting over an increasingly older audience. Raymond is a great example, my parents and grandparents love it, I'd rather do anything else. I barely watch CBS now, except for How I met your Mother, more shows like Raymond aren't helping. What happens to CBS in 20 years, if my generations tastes don't change? Their audience is shrinking as it ages, the networks will die with them.
    CBS is a wasteland of shows to entertain your grandparents. NBC is trying to follow CBS, thinking Leno attracts a larger, but older audience. Not to mention remakes of every 70/80s show they can find. ABC is the only network I see consistently trying for more youthful shows(Modern Family, Better of Ted, Pushing Daisies), but to less than stellar success. Foxes animation Sundays have been showing age for years, and adult swim rebroadcasts most of it at more convenient times.
    I can list many more, better shows on the cable networks; Daily Show, Colbert, Sarah Silverman, Psyche, Burn Notice, Venture Brothers, Sunny in Phileadelphia, Mad Men, Dexter, Weeds, anything on HBO, etc... We didn't abandon the networks, they abandoned us.

  • Peter says:

    Blah you are completely 100% right about CBS its a wasteland of geriatric shows but I think your wrong about NBC they put out some good scripted television just look at Chuck, 30 Rock, The Office (When it was in its prime), Community isn't to bad. But yeah things are steadily going to the Cable networks but Im thinking Network television has 1 or 2 more gems left.

  • cougar lover says:

    I started watching Cougar Town because of the title!

  • stretch65 says:

    Shouldn't Cougar Town be on Animal Planet alongside Merecat Manor?

  • Cynthia says:

    Cougartown is such a stupid show. As a woman I am so offended by this show! It should be called the I hate women show based on the title alone. Then I tried to watch this garbage. Courtney cox is the most unrealistic testosterone filled man chaser in this role. Her character is made to look desperate. The men on the show, even the most unnattractive ones are made into supposed sex symbols. This show is completely unrealistic male ego brushing crap. The characters are so shallow. Sorry I prefer Carrie Bradshaw! She was intelligent with substance.

  • I can't believe it, Lady Gaga won eight VMA awards Sunday night. I am definitely happy for her achievements and I like the Born This Way piece she sang also!