EXCLUSIVE: Cougar Town writer-producer Blake McCormick has been elevated to showrunner of the ensemble comedy as it heads into its fifth season and second on TBS. McCormick replaces Ric Swartzlander, who ran Cougar Town last season. Additionally, McCormick has signed a blind script deal with Warner Bros TV through studio-based Doozer, the company of Cougar Town co-creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence. Lawrence exited Cougar Town after Season 3 to segue into his overall deal at Warner Bros TV but ended up being pretty hands-on during Season 4 since he didn’t have a series on the air. That likely won’t be the case next season as he has three pilots in contention for series pickup: Undateable at NBC, I Suck At Girls at Fox and Ground Floor at TBS.
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Cougar Town co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence kicked off the winter TCA press tour this morning by offering up some wisecracks about ABC, the former home of his comedy that has since found a new home at TBS. Lawrence thanked TBS chief Michael Wright (who was onstage as part of the network’s panel) for keeping a show alive that Lawrence “has been trying to kill for years.” He also joked about his feelings regarding ABC’s promotion of Cougar Town by saying that now that the show has moved, “I’m actually seeing ads” for the series. Later in the session, Lawrence quipped that the series’ crew still loves ABC and Disney: “They are still the producers and owners of the show, and I think they are doing a great job.”
During the opening panel, Lawrence and new executive producer Ric Swartzlander concentrated on assuring the press that while the series has moved, it will remain the same. “Transition-wise it was easy because Michael is actually a fan of the show unless he is a really a good liar.… He said I just want you do deliver the same show…other than that there is a little nudity, that’s the only thing. We’ve shifted from Brian Van Holt not wearing his shirt all the time to Josh Hopkins not wearing his shirt all the time.” Both exec producers said TBS wanted to buy Cougar Town as-is, rather than revamp it. “A lot of shows have had weird life spans,” Lawrence said. He added, “Unless you are lucky enough to be a hit today, our goal in network TV and off-network TV is simply to stay alive.”
Led by Courteney Cox, Cougar Town‘s cast celebrates the show’s Season 4 launch Tuesday, January 8 on TBS. Cast includes Brian Van Holt, Christa Miller, Ian Gomez, Josh Hopkins, Busy Philipps, and Dan Byrd. Ric Swartzlander has joined the show as exec producer and showrunner. Series was co-created by exec producer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Spin City) and consulting producer Kevin Biegel (Scrubs). Cox and David Arquette also serve as EPs for the series produced by ABC Studios. Video is on the jump.
No surprise here — as we reported last year when Cougar Town co-creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence moved from ABC Studios to Warner Bros. TV with a rich new overall deal, the agreement allowed him to continue as showrunner on …
We broke the news on Saturday that TBS was in talks to pick up ABC’s comedy series Cougar Town. As we projected on Sunday, the negotiations reached a successful conclusion, and the cable network just announced the pickup. There are no details on the order but I had heard that TBS and Cougar Town producer ABC Studios were targeting a 15-episode one. TBS today announced a fourth-season pickup for Cougar Town to premiere in early 2013, though I hear the studio has the cast locked in for another season after that, so a fifth season could be in the cards too, bringing the series to comfortable syndicatable levels. It is not clear who will run the series next season as co-creator/showrunner Bill Lawrence is expected to segue into his Warner Bros. TV overall deal full-time. In addition to ordering new episodes, TBS has acquired the rights to Cougar Town‘s first three seasons of 61 episodes that originally aired on ABC. While never a hit, the series starring Courteney Cox has enjoyed a devoted following by a core group of passionate fans. TBS’ pickup of Cougar Town complicates things for two pilots, CBS’ untitled Louis CK/Spike Feresten project and NBC’s Kari Lizer project, both of which star Cougar Town cast members in second position, Dan Byrd and Josh Hopkins, respectively. (Chances for the latter appear very slim at NBC.) This is the second consecutive Bill Lawrence comedy to switch networks, following Scrubs‘ jump to ABC following its 2008 cancellation by NBC. Lawrence co-created Cougar Town with Kevin Biegel. Turner previously picked up another broadcast series, NBC drama Southland, which was recently renewed for a fifth season by TNT. Additionally, TBS brought in Conan O’Brien for a late-night show after his exit from NBC. Here is more from TBS’ release:
UPDATE SUNDAY: I hear that the deal eyed by both sides is for a two-season pickup by TBS, 15 episodes each, which would allow for Cougar Town to be sold in syndication. Negotiations are progressing and if they come to fruition, an announcement could come as soon as early next …
ABC today officially announced that Cougar Town will take over the Tuesday 8:30 PM slot vacated by the quickly canceled Work It. Cougar Town‘s 15-episode third season will premiere February 14 behind Last Man Standing.
At ABC’s TCA executive session, president Paul Lee announced that new midseason comedy Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23 will launch on April 11 on Wednesday after Modern Family. Shonda Rhimes’ new drama Scandal will also premiere April 5 in the post-Grey’s Anatomy Thursday 10 PM slot. “We are using our No. 1 drama to push the launch of Scandal, and we are using our No. 1 comedy to push the launch of Don’t Trust The B—,” Lee said. Don’t Trust will succeed Happy Endings, which will have ended its sophomore run, while Scandal will take over Private Practice, which will get a four-week trial after Dancing With The Stars. There is still no slot for Cougar Town, through Lee hinted that they “have an idea” where the third-year comedy will go. Its tentative return date is in March. “I think when we launch it, we’ll bring a big strong message that we love that show,” Lee said. As for Cougar Town‘s long-term prospects, Lee said it factors into a “dream” he has about one day bringing together the “group of young irreverent comedies” the network has in Happy Endings, Cougar Town and the upcoming Apartment 23. Back in May, ABC announced plans to extend its new Tuesday 8-9 PM comedy block to 10 PM between the two cycles of Dancing With The Stars, with Cougar Town and Apartment 23 taking over the Dancing result show. But the network dropped the plan following the breakout success of Fox’s New Girl in the Tuesday 9 PM slot, Lee said after the panel. Lee also talked about ABC’s strategy of staggering its fall and midseason launches. “Maybe I’m slightly in the cable model, but my job is not to launch a week’s television, my job is to bring great television and spend a year launching it.”
Other highlights from ABC’s executive session:
EXCLUSIVE: Here is some good news and some bad news for Cougar Town fans who were outraged by the fact that the third-year comedy is missing from ABC’s midseason schedule released this afternoon. First, the bad news. Because …
Competition for Emmy nominations among this year’s Outstanding Comedy Series contestants is no laughing matter. The showdown between two 20th Century TV hits is more intense than ever, with Modern Family showrunners Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd trying to score their second consecutive Emmy win, while Glee executive producer Ryan Murphy is hoping to edge them out. That is, if one or more of a duo of up-and-comers — Community or Parks and Recreation — don’t act as spoilers. Then again, past Emmy stalwarts 30 Rock or The Office could resurface. Or Showtime’s bold, female-skewing dramedies Nurse Jackie or newbie The Big C might seize the spotlight. And don’t rule out the possibility of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory finally scoring a nod in its fourth season, or How I Met Your Mother receiving recognition in its sixth. And then there are the underdogs. As The Middle’s co-showrunner Eileen Heisler (with DeAnn Heline) says about ABC’s Wednesday night lineup, “We’re really grateful to Modern Family for bringing attention to family shows. We’ve benefi tted from their success, but I think it takes a little longer for people to realize the next door neighbor in The Middle is edgy and wry.”
If Modern Family does repeat, no ABC sitcom has managed that feat since Taxi more than 30 years ago. Of course, NBC’s won three years running. And Frasier took home a record five in succession between 1994 and 1998. So it can be done. But that doesn’t mean Modern Family’s Christopher Lloyd thinks it’s a shoo-in. “Among certain segments of the blogosphere who first anointed the show that everybody is supposed to be watching, there’s another rush to declare that it stinks now. And then there will be others who’ll want to say ‘I told you so’ when it wins again.”
There’s general agreement it would take a miracle for any freshman broadcast network comedy to crash this year’s top comedy series’ Emmy party, with the possible exception of Fox’s Raising Hope. Though there’s a sliver of daylight for a newbie cable show like The Big C, despite the fact it’s a dramedy. Cable continues to make inroads in the comedy series categories, evidenced by Showtime’s Nurse Jackie capturing eight Emmy nominations last year, including one for top comedy; with Showtime’s Weeds as well as HBO’s Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm landing series nods in recent years. This year, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland has Emmy buzz. But only one cable comedy has ever won: HBO’s Sex and the City in 2001.
Here’s our assessment of the chances for this year’s comedy series in alphabetical order:
Although the NBC hitcom’s three-year winning streak ended last year (done in by ABC’s freshman breakout, Modern Family), it remains an industry darling — with good reason. While not as consistent as its earlier seasons, its comedy quality never seems to wane. So, without ever actually going away, it could be primed for a comeback. But the show, which celebrated its 100th episode this season, may also be mistakenly placed in the “been there, done that” category, even with red-hot writer/producer/actress/author Tina Fey at the helm (the recent Tracy Morgan scandal notwithstanding). But if the Academy revisits NBC’s quirky workplace comedies, they just might opt for the newer Parks and Recreation or Community.
THE BIG BANG THEORY
As popular as this CBS smash is, it has yet to be Emmy nominated despite originality in its scripts and ensemble. Kudos to the producers for broadening the cast this season and stepping up the romance for Mayim Bialik’s and Melissa Rauch’s roles, especially after Jim Parsons was acknowledged as last year’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series winner for nerd-chic hilarity. If you’re going to vote for a Chuck Lorre show this year, this one’s decidedly less baggage-laden than Two and a Half Men, which lost its Sheen.
THE BIG C
With lead Laura Linney considered a shoo-in for an Emmy nod, a side effect is that her show’s chances of breaking into the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy race likely increases as well. Question is, did they increase enough? Is the TV Academy ready to honor a dark comedy centering on a woman’s battle with cancer? Perhaps it’s time. If so, there could be two Showtime noms in this category for the first time, assuming Nurse Jackie repeats. Says showrunner Jenny Bicks, “It’s not going to be an easy fight for us.”
Forever floating on the renewal bubble (it will live on for a fifth and final short season of 13 episodes next season), Chuck has a well-earned reputation as The Little Show that Could. But, plucky as it is, the unlikely spy yarn remains a significant Emmy long-shot. Besides, NBC already has a couple of potential sleeper contenders at the ready in Parks and Recreation and Community.
What is arguably NBC’s most innovative comedy shoots high creatively but has yet to land commensurate ratings. Critics, however, have been quick to sing the show’s praises, perhaps loudly enough to help get it noticed by Emmy voters. Remember when Fox’s Arrested Development used critical praise to trump low viewership? Showrunner Dan Harmon likens Community’s comedy to “Krispy Kreme — we just have to get it into people’s mouths.” Or, in the case of Academy voters, into their DVD players.
In its second season, the wine-soaked “Friends for grownups” really came into its own as an ensemble comedy rather than just a Courteney Cox vehicle. And it’s even poking fun at the icky title that long ago ceased to have anything to do with the series premise. Nonetheless, it’s probably not ABC’s Wednesday night show with the most heat in this comedy category because of Modern Family.
EASTBOUND & DOWN
This back-to-fi rst-base comedy about a washed-up baseball player enjoys the prestige of HBO and the marquee value of Will Ferrell as a producer. But it’s perhaps too raunchy for older TV Academy voters. Given that producer-star Danny McBride says this forthcoming third season will be its last, Eastbound & Down likely will strike out Emmy-wise.
After landing nominations in the top comedy category for three years running, HBO’s Hollywood insider send-up didn’t make the cut the last go-round. If shut out again, it’s because Academy voters have moved on from an aging series that returns for its shortened eighth and final season on July 24th. It didn’t help when news leaked out in May that HBO pulled it from broadcast syndication by Warner Bros Domestic TV.
If the television industry’s insiders love anything more than laughing, it’s laughing at itself (see 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm). And there’s been buzz about how this Showtime Brits-out-of-water comedy reinvented Matt LeBlanc. But, even if he might, the series probably doesn’t have a high enough profile yet to garner an Emmy nod.
In 2009, the Fox show that wouldn’t die became the first animated series in nearly half a century to win an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series. But it was shut out the very next year. So expect the next TV Academy recognition for Family Guy around 2060. One question mark is whether the toon’s unique in-your-face way of campaigning for Emmy helps or hurts to sway voters. Then again, this is the comedy series category.