Tuned In from Hollywood: TBS welcomes 'Cougar Town'
After struggling on ABC, "Cougar Town" starts its fourth season Tuesday night on TBS, with Courteney Cox as Jules and Brian Van Holt as her ex-husband, Bobby.
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PASADENA, Calif. -- The opening scene of the first TBS episode of "Cougar Town" (10 p.m. Tuesday) references the show's struggles.
"I can't believe we're finally back," says Jules (Courteney Cox) as she and her friends enter her home through the front door.
"Seriously, it feels like we've been gone for a year," says ditzy Laurie (Busy Phillips).
"I honestly thought we'd never be in the kitchen again, telling our stories to each other, to the world," Jules says as all the characters look heavenward, as if gazing up at the writers who give them words or god-like viewers who watch (or don't watch) and determine a show's fate.
"Cougar Town" has had a rocky road from the start as it adjusted creatively -- it's now a show about adult friends rather than about Jules dating younger guys -- and outgrew its title and got jerked around ABC's schedule before migrating to cable network TBS.
"I don't know if you saw, but there are commercials for this show now. It's very odd," said "Cougar Town" executive producer Bill Lawrence at a TBS press conference Friday on the opening day of the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Not many shows make the jump from broadcast to cable, mostly due to different economic models, but "Cougar Town" looks no different than it did when it aired on ABC. TBS/TNT president Michael Wright said brief consideration was given to changing the show's title, but he didn't want to torpedo all the marketing done to build up the show's brand.
"It feels like we're a new show," Ms. Cox said of TBS's extensive promotional efforts. "They sent us to Napa to do a press junket. It was the nicest thing."
At the end of the most recent season last spring on ABC, Jules married neighbor Grayson (Josh Hopkins). Mr. Lawrence said he had no worries that pairing the characters will erode tension and viewer interest.
"It's just as big a burden to keep doing will-they-or-won't-they when so many people have done it so well," he said. "Once we decided the show is about adult friendships and what it means to while away your 40s with friends, drinking wine, having dinner and hanging out, it felt like an organic thing to do. Courteney had just as many things to tell about the trials and tribulations of marriage as we [writers] do."
The new season will explore the marriage of Jules and Grayson, including their decision to have a naked day, which was inspired by the real-life experience of executive producer Ric Swartzlander.
"He said it was sexy for five minutes," Mr. Lawrence said, "and then it's just two middle-age people standing around naked."
'Dallas' moves forward
Mr. Wright expressed sadness over the November death of "Dallas" star J.R. Ewing. The character will die in the new season that begins Jan. 28.
"The storyline that follows [J.R.'s death] we believe would make Larry very happy," he said.
Entertainment Weekly reports Mr. Hagman had filmed five episodes at the time of his death. A cut scene from an earlier episode featuring Mr. Hagman will be used in the sixth episode. The eighth episode, expected to air March 11, will feature J.R.'s funeral.
Nat Geo's 'Lincoln'
Next month National Geographic Channel will air its first factual drama, the film "Killing Lincoln," based on the book by Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Given the success of Steven Spielberg's acclaimed movie "Lincoln," now in movie theaters, more viewers may come to the cable movie -- or they may figure they've already seen it.
"We pick up where that leaves off," says "Killing Lincoln" writer and executive producer Erik Jendresen. "Think of the Spielberg film as a prequel. This focuses exclusively on the assassination and the events afterwards."
Billy Campbell ("The Killing") stars in the film as Lincoln, and Jesse Johnson, son of Don Johnson, plays John Wilkes Booth. History buff Tom Hanks narrates the movie.
No specific air date for "Killing Lincoln" has been announced, and Nat Geo is planning another factual drama. This week the channel announced plans to film a movie based on Mr. O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot."
CMT will air a marathon of "Nashville" episodes starting at 2 p.m. Sunday. New episodes resume on ABC next week. ... Viewers of CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" will have the chance to vote for how the Jan. 14 episode will end by casting a ballot via Twitter or at CBS.com as the show airs that night.
On the web
Read more coverage from the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv.
First Published January 5, 2013 12:00 am