"Cougar Town" started as a star vehicle to bring Courteney Cox-Arquette back to comedic network television. Creator Bill Lawrence knew from the get go he wanted to work with her and was somewhat hesitant about pitching her the title in case she found it offensive or simply took it the wrong way. Luckily for him-- and for all of us, really-- Cox-Arquette has one of the best senses of humor in show business, and she easily turns that in on herself. Who else would perform a scene where she opens a towel, stares at her naked body in the mirror, cries out in disgust and then begins poking and pinching at all of the areas she doesn't like?
"That scene was all Courteney, too," Lawrence explained at PaleyFest's evening honoring the freshmen comedy. "She didn't have a body double, and she says that now she spends a lot of time trying to convince people that was really her. She says she's getting sick of having to repeat: 'Yes, I really do look like sh*t.'" That's what Lawrence claimed Cox-Arquette thinks of herself, though. Judging from the whistles and cheers from the audience when she walked out on stage, though, her fans are just as in love with her now as when she was on Friends.
The concept of the show never seemed to bother Cox-Arquette, who said: "Being forty-something is fantastic. I don't really have that many good years left, but the ones I have I am very excited about!" Besides, "Cougar Town" has a writing staff made up of more than half women, which is more than any other sitcom currently on television. Therefore, they are adept at writing very real, very three-dimensional women and never put them in any situations in which they would feel uncomfortable. It helps to have an ensemble cast of actors who are fearless, though, like Christa Miller, Busy Phillips, and Carolyn Hennesy. Phillips and Hennessy could not be at the panel, but the hot seats were filled by the hot men of the cast: Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt, Ian Gomez, and Dan Byrd (a little something for everyone!).
"I think we're a functioning dysfunctional crew and band of people," Van Holt replied when asked to describe the show's dynamic.
"The characters or us?" Lawrence laughed, gesturing to the panel.
"Both!" Van Holt nodded knowingly.
Case in point is the amount of wine the characters seem to go through, even when a scene takes place in mid-morning hours. "I think Jules is one of the most functional alcoholics on television. Perhaps the most functional," Cox-Arquette pondered, perhaps forgetting about Julia Louis-Drefus' own boozy sitcom heroine, the titular Christine from CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine." "I think we drink more on this show than they did on Cheers!" Lawrence piped up. Perhaps those two should go head-to-head in a crossover drinking competition...
But though the show has taken on zingy banter, site gags (they really need to trademark the 'Blomfy,' part blanket but all comfy!), and some physical comedy (such as Gomez repeatedly driving a motorcycle into a bush in an upcoming episode), the true heart of the show lies within the relationships between the characters. "I really love the stuff with my son," Cox-Arquette pointed at Byrd.
But don't worry: the show hasn't dropped relationship Jules from its radar. Lawrence promised she'll be back on the prowl, so to speak, shortly. "You know how on some shows they draw out the will they or won't they with characters? I hate that! I like blowing up those expectations immediately!" We have already seen Jules and Grayson dancing around their attraction, and Lawrence teases that it will "get naughty and fun a little later" for them.
And what else did Lawrence share would be coming up? Well, Miller. who does the music for the show, said they are working on trying to get a soundtrack up on iTunes since they utilize so many amazing, obscure bands. Hennesy will be utilized more because she's such a comedic force and "half of the really rauncy [takes] that come out of her mouth are straight from her head." Also, since he and the rest of his team have gotten to a point in their careers where they can afford a "no @$$hole policy," they enforce it. "Why wouldn't you want to just work with really cool people all of the time?" Lawrence asked rhetorically. This policy is what led them to bring Sheryl Cole, one of Cox-Arquette's oldest friends and the "nicest rockstar [Lawrence's] ever met" on for a future arc, and it will also leave the door open for some of their other friends. "Jennifer [Aniston]'s going to be on next year," Lawrence nodded. "She just doesn't know it yet."
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer