Last night's episode didn't waste anytime in bringing the laughs, with the gang wearing a necklace that comfortably holds your glass of wine around you're neck while leaving your hands free for...an on-deck glass of wine. (Where can I get one?) And the episode ends with the beginning of a whole new chapter in their lives as Grayson (Josh Hopkins) proposes to Jules (Courtney Cox). It's just the right amount of funny and sweet. But, last night was actually my second time seeing the episode as I spent my past Saturday night at a viewing party with the cast of the show here in NYC at the Paley Center.
The show is hardly a ratings winner and has been in danger of being cancelled every year. So, the creator of the show, Bill Lawrence, decided to reward the loyal fans and keep the show alive by word of mouth by throwing viewing parties across the country. We got to watch two episodes of the show and then were joined by Bill (a 43-year-old man with bangs- his words), co-creator Kevin Biegel, and the whole cast (including Michelle Williams BFF, Busy Phillips! Who wasn't initially scheduled to be there!) for an hour long Q and A.
Of course, one of the main topics of conversion was the title of the show and the show's evolution. When the show first aired, it started off being about a 40-something Courtney Cox recently getting out of a divorce and dating. That lasted a couple of episodes until they realized how well the cast worked together and it quickly became the ensemble show about adult friendship (and wine drinking) that we know today. Before the start of the Second Season, there was talk of changing the name of the show as 'Cougar Town' obviously didn't fit with it's current state. Kevin Biegel said that they had decided on 'Sunshine State', but ABC wouldn't allow them because the (short-lived) Matthew Perry show was called 'Mr. Sunshine'. But, the name isn't going anywhere. Bill Lawrence said that it's built a fan base on the name it has and to market the show with a new name would imply that it needs fixing. Also, DVRs wouldn't recognize a new name, so it would lose the fans it has because the show won't record. They've really embraced the absurdity of the name and every episode has a new comment about it during the beginning title card. (Example: It's Okay to Watch a Show Named: 'Cougar Town' or 'Cougar Town'- It's Like Scrubs With Wine)
They also talked about how the characters are written for the actors. Apparently the whole drinking of wine on the show came about because of a visit to Courtney's home. She fills the glass to the brim for guests so they have to slurp it before walking around. Lawrence's wife, Christa Miller, who plays no-nonsense, Ellie, inspires lines from her everyday life for the characters. He writes them down after she says things and they wind up on the show. Everyone's favorite game involving pennies and a can, Penny Can, was an actual game that the writer's invented and it found it's way on to the show. The pop-culture references will also continue this season as an episode is based on Groundhog Day. It's Grayson's favorite movie and Jules has never seen it. Neither has Courtney, it turns out, as she asked Bill why the jokes kept repeating themselves that episode- the writers are smarter than that. (Courtney than said she feels dumber than most people everyday of her life- but she's very street smart.)
The subject of cancellation was also brought up, but the cast and creators remain optimist. Busy talked about how they've all been on brilliant but cancelled shows ('Freaks and Geeks'! Such a great show that never found an audience while it was on) but they hope that this one can continue. So, grab an extra big glass of wine and start watching, America! Tuesday nights at 8:30 on ABC. You don't need to watch that second half of 'Glee' anyway...