'Cougar Town' co-creator Bill Lawrence on cast cameos, a possible title change and Season 3

cougar-town-bill-lawrence.jpgThe cast of "Cougar Town" will be popping up all over television in the next couple months.

It started Thursday, Oct. 13 with a brief, silent cameo by Ian Gomez on "Grey's Anatomy." The rest of the cast will be popping up on other ABC shows, and on other networks, in the coming weeks. The main benefit for "Cougar Town" is obviously keeping people aware that the show will be back in early 2012, but co-creator Bill Lawrence hopes the promotional buzz goes both ways.

"We had a fun little run with 'Community' last year," Lawrence says about a quasi-crossover in which "Cougar Town's" Busy Philipps and Dan Byrd and "Community's" Danny Pudi popped up in the background of the other show. "This year, we were talking about it an thought, since we aren't on in the fall, we should try to [have the actors] be on in the fall as much as we possibly can.

"The trick to it is making it not that other shows are promoting us -- shows and other networks and studios don't generally like that -- but that we're promoting them," Lawrence tells Zap2it. "So that's the thing we stumbled onto, and ABC is letting us do it."

The "Cougar Town" staff is running a contest for fans to spot every cameo and guest appearance, so he wouldn't share the specifics of every one. But we got him to reveal a couple of the upcoming cameos, along with news about -- again -- considering changing "Cougar Town's" title and a little bit of what's to come in Season 3.

Zap2it: Are you going to help people find these cameos?
Bill Lawrence: We're going to be giving hints as we go [via Twitter]. To me the coolest thing is that even though people will publicize some ... and some will get out because people will mention it, since we are giving away [stuff], it will be really hard to get all of them. ... I feel like the Internet will help people, but it will probably go right up until we premiere.

Are there any you can mention on the record?
The "Private Practice" one [featuring Courteney Cox and Christa Miller] hasn't happened yet. We shot a funny one for anyone who knows Laurie's [Philipps] character on "Happy Endings" that people should keep their eyes peeled for. I don't know how to tease them -- the best thing to say is I'm going to start giving weekly clues about what to look for. [You can follow Lawrence on Twitter here.]

The actors were all on board with the idea?
What we're asking these people to do isn't the most fun in the world. It's essentially showing up for themselves, in their limited free time, to stand around on someone else's set. ... But everybody's game, and everybody's doing it. One thing we didn't expect -- people are fans of these actors, so some people's walk-bys have become guest-star parts. Dan Byrd's quick cameo on "Suburgatory" is now him being the guest star on that show.

The biggest thing for the cast, the reason they're all doing it, is the second they see Courteney Cox, whose time is spread thin, walking around [other] TV shows, they're all jumping in right behind her.

You've also made some noise on Twitter recently about changing the show's title. What's the status?
I'm trying to get approval for what I want to do. We get lobbied back and forth so many times, with real arguments on both sides. If it works out, what I'm trying to get is to have fans vote on the title, but have "Cougar Town" be one of the choices.

Is there enough time to do that before the season starts?
The only way that could change is if tomorrow, someone said, "This show is failing, we need you on now." But I think ABC's comedy lineup is doing fine. So I think the original plan of pairing us with "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23" whenever that comes on is what I'm building toward. But you're correct -- if they said, "We don't want to do this show anymore and your show is coming on in three weeks," it's going to be called "Cougar Town." The final decision [on the vote] is going to happen in the next week or two. And you know me -- I'm just trying to keep us out there.

How would a fan vote work?
We'd only put choices up that we could all live with. We wouldn't do a joke choice or something stupid. We actually bet on it in the writers room a little bit. I don't think this is so, but most of the writers room thinks "Cougar Town" would win, because the only people who would vote are fans. ... So it will be interesting to see.

How deep into Season 3 are you?
We're shooting the 10th episode now.

How's it been going so far?
It's good. The weirdest thing about this year is ... in the past, even in negative situations, I've always been able to tell how my show, whichever show I was talking about, was going to do when it came back on. ... This is the first time ever I have no idea how we're going to do, so it makes me nervous. On one hand, the show could come and we could be out of sight, out of mind because it's a big long gap [between seasons]. On the other hand, it's a time right now that comedy is really popping, and given the right timeslot -- we kind of shot the first episode this year as a re-entry into the show, almost like a third-year pilot. I think it's really good.

What kind of stories are you telling so far?
It's so not a show called "Cougar Town." [laughs] To me it's a crackup.  

How does Nicole Sullivan's therapist character fit in? [Details on her character are here.]
One of my favorite things to do -- and you can write about it and see if Courteney gets mad or not -- is I like taking things Courteney Cox does in real life, because she's crazy, into the actual show. She's a believer in therapy and likes it, but she literally does threaten friends: "If you can't figure this out, I'm going to take you to therapy with me." It's my personal nightmare, but to me it's funny that that's the biggest threat she lays on people -- couples counseling, the pre-marriage couples counseling, the after-marriage couples counseling, going to therapy with friends to settle arguments. And I like bringing back people I love to work with. ... She's someone who can come in and throw jokes around with the best of them. She's doing a bunch of episodes.

You've dealt with this on "Scrubs," but you're working in a bit of a vacuum, making a bunch of episodes before anyone sees them. What's that experience like?
It's a little scary, but also liberating, in that you just have to do stuff that you think is funny because you're not getting any real feedback as you're going. I know the first group of shows are really good. ... People care so much about ratings, but unless you're a giant hit, you've just got to be happy you're all working again. So we're not really sweating it too much. But you do get into this vibe where you're doing stuff you all think is funny.
Photo/Video credit: ABC