How would “Cougar Town” co-creator Kevin Biegel sum up the news that TBS has picked up a fourth season of the sitcom after ABC decided not to renew it?
“It feels a little like a prisoner on his way to executioner being told, ‘Okay, the governor says you’re not going to be executed, and you get to go free, and you get a Corvette and a steak dinner, too.”
I spoke briefly with Biegel about how quickly the deal came together, what, if any, changes “Cougar Town” fans can expect to see to the show when it makes its TBS debut, and more.
When did this all start happening?
It really did start getting kind of serious around when Deadline broke that story about it being a possibility. I’m sure they were talking about it for the past few weeks, but this all went down hardcore within the past week.
And how did you feel when you realized the show would continue?
You can bundle up any positive noun and adjective you can think of. So happy that it would have a life somewhere. I will not for a second complain about ABC, and I shouldn’t. They paid for the show, Paul (Lee) believed in the show, they did promote the show, and they put us on the air. You can’t knock that. But this new place was not only going to welcome us, but welcome us with open arms. It was really exciting. It did seem like, from everything we talked about with these guys, that they want to make this one of their flagship shows, and that’s pretty great. TBS, they’ve got a pretty good bundle of stuff they repeat, and the numbers of the stuff they’re repeating in primetime are better than networks sometimes. It’s not like going to Johnny’s cable station in the middle of Podunk, Iowa; it’s a real, great station that is making great strides and trying to put new content out there along with the repeats. They’ve got the Tyler Perry stuff, a couple of new shows, and there’s a sense of over there of eagerness and of trying new things, and also of not being scared to make big moves like this. It’s pretty cool.
And it’s cheesey, but it just made me happy of the fundamental level of the fans have been so vocal and so great and so supportive and always receptive to stuff that we do, and literally taking things into their own hands and trying to go out there and promote the show. The fact that it gets to exist for them? I just put myself in their shoes. These shows that I loved in the past that went away, that was a real bummer. Now this one gets to come back at a place that’s really going to love it. I think that’s wonderful. I’m just to the moon happy and psyched that everyone’s working together.
One of the first questions I started hearing as soon as this move was reported was whether it would finally lead you to change the name. The explanation you and Bill gave in the past was that changing the name would screw with people’s DVR season passes, but once you move to a different channel, that doesn’t really apply. But my guess is you’re going to stick with “Cougar Town,” right?
I think that is a question that’s not going to be answered right now, because this is all so new. We haven’t even had that conversation yet. I don’t know what the technologies are, I don’t know how things change. I think that’s something we need to talk about in the future. Probably in the next couple of days, we’ll talk about it.
But my assumption is that TBS bought this show because it has a recognizable name and fans who will follow that name, and they wouldn’t want to change it.
I think so, but I don’t know. They’re pretty good at what they do, so if they present a world where it doesn’t have a same name, and they have a good argument for it, that’s an argument that could be made, I guess. But honestly, I don’t know right now, it’s not even something I’ve thought about.
You have all your actors returning, right?
Yes. Josh (Hopkins) and Dan (Byrd) were both on pilots – very good pilots, actually – but they were in second position on those pilots, so if “Cougar Town” came back, they would contractually have to return with our show.
So do you have any sense in any way how, if at all, the show would have to change in the move from ABC to TBS?
To be honest with you, I really get the sense that it’s not going to change that much. TBS really stepped up in a good way with the budget, they’ve been saying, “We’re fans of what you guys are doing, so please keep doing it.” I don’t know that this is a situation necessarily where we have to go out tomorrow and every episode’s a bottle show, because now the budget’s been quartered. But I also think it makes financial sense to just tighten the bootstraps a little bit. I’m not sure what that’s going to mean at the end of the day, but it does seem like TBS wants to keep making the show we’ve been making, and we’re going to try to keep doing that to the best of our abilities.
You and Bill were both constantly positive on Twitter – “It’s coming back, it’s coming back” – but at what point did you start to get the sense that ABC was going to move on without you?
It’s weird. The second I started maybe feeling that pang of “Maybe this isn’t going to work” was the second the damn Deadline story broke, and I went, “Oh, I guess this is the answer.” I was kind of Johnny Positive until the very end. I think the show is too damn good, and even though the rating wasn’t enormous, it was fairly consistent in the modern landscape of TV where the comedies that people like – aside from the “Modern Family”s of the world – seem to do. I never went to that exact moment of “I think the show is totally dead.” I always held out hope. But I would say my hope was at the very very last bit of hope, and then the TBS news came along. It’s going to be an interesting year next year.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com