On fan screenings, working in a vacuum and memories of 'Freaks and Geeks'
finally returns to ABC tonight at 8:30. As I wrote about yesterday
, the show has come a long way from its early days when its horrible title could be taken fairly literally. It's now a goofy, sweet, quirky, fun and at times incredibly romantic comedy about friends and family.
Tonight's premiere leans heavy on both the goof and the romance, which is either brilliant or horrible timing given that it's Valentine's Day. In terms of timing, though, the larger problem may be that the show has been off the air for almost nine months, which means all but the most passionate fans — or people who didn't delete their DVR season pass(*) — may have forgotten it existed by now.
(*) As mentioned in last week's story, those season passes are the reason the show won't abandon the terrible title, because an old show with a new title would be treated as a new show by DVRs, and it wouldn't record for anyone who didn't know to update things.
ABC left the Courteney Cox comedy off its fall schedule, then bumped it from a planned mid-season debut a couple of months ago, which is tough sledding for a show that will be airing for the first time without the security of "Modern Family" as its lead-in. To keep the fans engaged during the long time off — and to keep the actors and writers from feeling too disconnected from their audience — the show's creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel mounted a multi-level guerrilla marketing campaign, that included cameos by most of the cast in the background of other shows and a series of screenings of season 3 episodes in cities around the country. (I talked with both Lawrence
about the campaign at press tour.)
One of those screenings was in Chicago, where co-star Busy Philipps and writer Melody Derloshon represented the series. Last month, before ABC announced the show's premiere date, I spoke with Philipps about the screening, making these episodes in a vacuum, and the show's optimistic approach to her dim-witted character, Laurie.