Same cul-de-sac, different network.
After being evicted from ABC last spring, Courteney Cox and her "Cougar Town" neighbors will call TBS home for Season 4, starting Jan. 8. The cast, which converged in the oh-so-show-appropriate Napa Valley last December to discuss the syrah-soaked season with Yahoo! TV, was thrilled by the save for a variety of reasons.
"Mostly because of our mortgages," joked Josh Hopkins (Grayson), before Dan Byrd (Travis) added, "And I have a gambling problem."
"It would have been a shame and an injustice if it was canceled," Brian Van Holt (Bobby) admitted. "I would have been very depressed because I'd enjoyed working with these guys, especially Ian. I didn't want the bromance to end."
Ian Gomez (Andy) was a little more pragmatic: "We've all been doing this a long time and know the realities of the business. You're lucky if you get a show, if the show gets picked up, if you get two seasons. I was prepared to get back to the hustle. But I'm so, so happy because I don't like looking for work and I'm thrilled to do more with these guys."
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They could all agree that there were some loose ends that needed tying up and plenty more tales for the Florida friends to tell. "They did a really nice job of putting a little bow on things at the end of last season [just in case], but there were obviously still some open-ended things happening, like the Trav and Laurie relationship," explained Byrd.
Busy Philipps (Laurie) added, "I certainly didn't feel the show was finished and Bill [Lawrence, co-creator and executive producer] definitely sent the message to us toward the end of last season that the show was not done yet, no matter what happened with ABC. And I really trust Bill."
They also all agreed that the move to basic cable and a 10 PM time slot could not have gone any smoother.
"I can feel the change. It starts with the network. There was kind of a cloud above us [when we were] under the ABC umbrella," Gomez said. "At TBS, there is a lot more freedom and it's a lot cooler. We can do and say more things that would not have flown on the Mickey Mouse network. And there's like 12 people at the whole company and we know them."
His on-screen wife, Christa Miller (Ellie), couldn't agree more: "They're really excited and enthusiastic, and it trickles down to the cast and the crew."
Philipps echoed her sentiments: "The move has been awesome. It is such a different situation, feeling so embraced by the network. They want to make us a cornerstone of their comedy [lineup]."
Cox, who plays hot-but-dysfunctional mama Jules and also produces the show, feels it has made the overall product smarter and funnier: "I've directed a lot of the episodes so I get the notes right away, and they're so happy and supportive. They never say, 'You went too far there' or 'That's too racy.' They encourage it. Some of our previous boundaries have been taken away and I feel like we are in such a good place because of it. We get to do more of what we want to do."
Cox talks to Jay Leno about being more daring with "Cougar Town":
Hopkins continued, "We always struggled with [being] an adult show in a time when every other show is about 15-year-old vampires. This is a good-to-be-at … a place where we can take advantage of the fact that we can be a little more adult in our language and subjects."
These subjects include Andy and Ellie's rise as Gulfhaven's first couple, Bobby's return to the dating scene and the tough-love help he receives from Ellie, Laurie's boyfriend returning from Afghanistan and craving a relationship beyond sexting, Travis pulling farther away from his clingy mom while still pining for Laurie, and Jules and Grayson's life as a newly married couple living full-time under one roof.
"It is fun that the relationship has gone from two people that don't really know each other to them being married. We've watched the arc the whole way," Hopkins said. "They are trying to make sure they don't fall into a rut and to guard against the monotony of a relationship. So a lot of this season is them trying to keep it spicy."
There is also a flashback episode that divulges how the gang came together, mostly through a series of meet-cutes. "It's a concept I didn't really know about until the show," revealed Philipps. "Now, I'm never going to forget it." A more tender side of Ellie is even exposed. "My husband forces me to be a little vulnerable," Miller said.
The same installment also provides a hilarious glimpse at a less polished Jules. "[It's] a meeting of the rednecks and Ellie is appalled," Cox said. "It was really fun to play the white-trash version of Jules, but it does seem a little crazy that I could go from this [she switches to her best hick voice] talking like this, to not at all. [But] you have to have some changes, otherwise why would Bobby and Jules ever have been together?" Van Holt ups his hillbilly quotient with a mullet. "I really did have a mullet [when I was younger]. That apple didn't fall far from the tree. No joke."
The long-term character development is the thing Philipps really loves about being on TV. "There's been exponential growth in all of them. We're not relegated to being just the quirky best friend," she said, pointing at Miller. "She's a character that has layers. She's not just the b----y neighbor."
The topics aren't all as serious as dealing with powerful doldrums. They will also tackle sex robots, barehanded catfish catching, the preferred sexual positions featured on "Game of Thrones," and facial hair. "The guys all decide to grow mustaches," Gomez said. "They're real hair, but they are someone else's hair."
Van Holt explained, "I can't really grow that strong of a mustache. I wish. It's all smoke and mirrors." Hopkins admitted he also would have had trouble becoming mustachioed in the short time frame that production demanded. "That was a man-stache. It was impressive."
Anticipated guest stars include Oscar winner Shirley Jones ("The Partridge Family"), who portrays an elderly woman who buys Grayson's old house under the condition that Jules spends time with her and listens to her unwanted life advice; and Tippi Hedren, who will appear as herself in the season finale. The cul-de-sac crew schemes to kidnap "The Birds" actress to cheer up Jules's dad (a Hedren megafan), Chick.
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"Shirley and I had a meet-cute. I worked with her before. She played Drew Carey's girlfriend," Miller said. "It's [still] huge. 'Partridge' was my favorite show growing up."
Even though the new episodes pick up right where last season left off, Byrd feels it is also a great time for "Cougar Town" virgins to tune in: "As Courteney says, each episode could stand on its own. There aren't a lot of arcs that are carried over from season to season, or throughout the season. You can check in at pretty much any point and be onboard with what's happening quickly."
Cox chimed in with a promise: "The show keeps getting better and funnier. And we can have butt-sex jokes now."