If you’re a Cougar Town fan considering launching a Facebook campaign to protest ABC’s decision today to hold the show’s third season premiere until late November, you might want to hear what series co-creator Bill Lawrence has to say about the decision. In his first interview about the switch, Lawrence tells Vulture he’s actually pretty okay with it: “I’m not that bummed out,” he told us a few minutes ago, explaining that he’s actually been pushing ABC chief Paul Lee to give Cougar Town a shot at surviving on its own rather than remaining warmly nuzzled in the protective bosom that is the 9:30 p.m. time slot following Modern Family.
“I’ve been hounding Paul about letting Cougar Town lead off an hour [next] season,” Lawrence says. “This is going to be my last season [as co-showrunner] because I’m going to Warner Bros. TV. And our show has to lead off an hour to be worth anything [in syndication]. So I’ve been asking him to give me a shot while I’m still here.” Specifically, Lawrence had grown tired of those who’ve accused his show of being something short of a success because it loses at least 20 percent of its lead-in, the megahit Modern Family. “The Middle, which I very much like, does around a 1.9 [demo rating] and is deemed a hit, but we do a 2.4, 2.5, and because we’re after Modern Family, we’re deemed a failure,” he says. Lawrence believes he and co-creator Kevin Biegel have “established a core audience [for Cougar Town] that will follow us to Tuesdays.” All this said, Lawrence had been hoping for a slightly different scenario from ABC this morning.
“I would have liked to have stayed on after Modern Family until Dancing was done,” he says. That would’ve given Cougar an opportunity to build some fall momentum and then transition to Tuesdays after Thanksgiving. “But that would’ve been a lot to have asked,” Lawrence admits. “And I’m impressed with the decision to give Happy Endings a shot after Modern Family, since I really like that show and the team on it.” Lawrence is also glad Lee announced a time slot for the show now rather than offer a vague promise of a mid-season time slot; he’s also encouraged by the pairing with Apt. 23, which will follow CT. “[Lee] likes that show a lot, and the fact that we’re its lead-in is good,” he says.