Back in the spring, I interviewed "Cougar Town" co-creator Bill Lawrence about the creative turnaround that show made over the course of the season. In that interview, Bill said that they had done research showing that the title was a severe turn-off - that some viewers (mostly women) had no interest in watching anything called "Cougar Town," even though the show had long since stopped being about Courteney Cox trolling for young men. He said he hoped to petition the studio and ABC into agreeing to a title change before season two.
Last Friday, though, Lawrence told Michael Ausiello that the name change wasn't happening, so when I saw Bill at ABC's party last night, I had to get him to elaborate on the subject...
So what's this I hear about you keeping the terrible title of your show?
Oh, dude. The only title I could think of that was any better was "Stay tuned for more 'Modern Family,'" which would've crushed. "After this commercial break. We would've had to nail it to change it. And we didn't come up with anything. We couldn't use anything with the word "friends," because it would seem like we were pandering. They made some good points, which is that branding of a show matters. Eventually you can overcome a shitty title. It may be the worst-titled show of all time, but it's a fun burden to overcome. DVRs, you'd have to reprogram with a new title. That's like 30, 40 people we'd lose right there with their season passes. I'd have to call them all personally.
The truth is, we never nailed anything we really dug that would make that wholesale change worthwhile. So now we're wearing it like a badge of courage.
You couldn't have even just gone with "The Courteney Cox Show"? It's more than that now, but it wouldn't be a turn-off.
It's not good enough. It would have had to blow those guys away - because they researched all our suggestions - to make it worth changing. Here's the double-edged sword, which I find interesting. Classic network television story, when they wanted to put a laugh track on "M*A*S*H." Larry Gelbart did a test where he tested it with laughs and he tested it without, and he went to those guys and said, "Look, people responded the same way whether there were fake laughs in it or not." And the network said, "Well, great. Then we'll keep the laughs."
In the same vein, the network and studio are actively considering it. The story is out there that I fucked up the title, and we were actively searching for a change. I just care if it remains exclusionary. Who gives a shit? We'll call it "C-Town," but that actually sounds worse.
Yeah, that's almost dirtier.
Someone was suggesting "The Family Jules," and I'm like, "Why not just call the show 'Balls'? 'Nutsack'? There's no win." But if I could go back in time, it would be "The Courteney Cox Show."