Bill Lawrence - the creator of Scrubs, Cougar Town, and two new pilots - gives a big insiders’ look in this interview at the process of making network television and how drastically a show or character can change in its first season. Here’s his description of how Cougar Town came to be:
…I said, “You know what sucks? I can’t sell my passion project. But if I go to [ABC President] Steve McPherson right now and said” — and this was just off the top of my head — “‘I’ve got a Courteney Cox comedy, she just got divorced, she never had her 20s, and she’s gonna fuck younger guys, and it’s called Cougar Town,’ I could sell that without doing any more work than I just did.”And it became a joke in the writers’ room, where instead of having cuts between scenes, a claw would just rip it. Just rip the image right off the television. We kept joking about it week after week. And then, finally, after three weeks, I was like, “Should I do this?”…I don’t know that I could have sold the show by saying, “Hey, it’s about adult friendship, and it’s about people in a cul-de-sac drinking wine, and it’s called Cul-De-Sac Crew.”
Ah, the classic Trojan horse gambit: packaging a show to be super sexy and controversial, and then sneakily making it goofy and weirdly wholesome. Lawrence also talks about walking the comedy-drama tightrope and why timeslots still matter for building a show’s audience. Lots of industry talk! Something to read while you flip through three spec scripts on a leather couch.