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Cougar Town : More Nudity and More Boobs, say Cast Members - Ed Martin

Ed Martin
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Published: January 7, 2013 at 01:38 AM GMT
Last Updated: February 18, 2013 at 01:38 AM GMT

By Ed Martin

Ed Martin Reports from the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Tour will be published exclusively for Jack Myers Media Business Report members throughout the next two weeks. Today's report covers the TCA presentations by Turner, NatGeo, A&E, HBO and Hallmark.

Pasadena, CA -- The Winter 2013 Television Critics Association tour started first thing Friday morning in uncommonly lively fashion, with a session for a series that is particularly beloved by members of this organization – the sassy sitcom Cougar Town, which this week begins a new season on a new network, TBS.

The show with the famously problematic title was dumped last year after three seasons by ABC, where its' mediocre-for-broadcast ratings never matched up with the outsize support it enjoyed in the press. Apparently, it is largely because of that seemingly ceaseless enthusiasm critics and reporters have for Cougar Town that it was able to relocate to a new home. Indeed, before the Cougar Town session began Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin told me that the ongoing interest from "people in this room" had a lot to do with the network's decision to pick it up.

Moments later, series creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence echoed Koonin's comment. "I truly feel that some of the writers here that have helped us and championed the show are at least partly responsible for the show staying on," he said from the stage. "As a result, it's kind of our Cougar+Town+on+TBSthing." Moments later, waiters dashed into the room offering celebratory mimosas for all, in a nod to an unusual event at the 2012 Winter tour that also found TCA members and Cougar Town talent drinking together. Last January, shortly before Cougar Town began its final season on ABC, Lawrence memorably took over the Tap Room bar here at the Langham Huntington Hotel, long the home of Winter TCA tours, and invited critics to hang out with the cast and producers of his show, without any network or studio suits or publicists around to interfere in their conversations. This deceptively simple effort on his part resulted in dozens of columns and hundreds of tweets and online communications about Cougar Town, which certainly caught the attention of the industry.

I have to wonder why executive producers of other struggling series that are critical favorites don't make similar efforts to save their shows (and propel them toward lucrative syndication deals). Perhaps this latest chapter in the story of Cougar Town will motivate them to do so.

The relationships that Lawrence, series lead Courteney Cox and the rest of the cast have with TCA members is so relaxed and informal that one never really knows if they are providing honest answers to reporters' questions or if they are good-naturedly goofing around. That said, Cox and others suggested that with the show's transition from broadcast to basic cable there will be a smattering of nudity in upcoming episodes. Also, Lawrence noted, there will be more shots of Cox's cleavage. "You will not see one scene that I don't show my boobs," Cox eagerly added.

Turner Networks also presented a combo panel for four upcoming reality shows. They included three that will be on TNT: a Cops-style verite series with the self-explanatory title Boston's Finest, executive produced by Donnie Wahlberg; an adventure challenge titled 72 Hours, which is the amount of time competitors are given to locate bags of cash after being dropped with nothing in treacherous locales, and The Hero, a physical competition show in which Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock) mentors ten ordinary people through tests of their mental and physical abilities and moral fortitude. The fourth series, King of the Nerds, hosted and executive produced by two stars of the 1984 comedy classic Revenge of the Nerds, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, will debut on TBS later this month.

The Turner session ended with a panel for Monday Mornings, an upcoming medical drama from Boston Legal creators and executive producers David E. Kelley and Bill D'Elia. In a happy example of synergy, it's based on the novel of the same name by CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is also an executive producer.

National Geographic, A&E, HBO, Hallmark

The day continued with presentations by National Geographic Channels, A&E and HBO. The highlight of the National Geographic session was a panel for its upcoming documentary mini-series The 80s, which promises to be a bit more light-hearted than the network's standard fare. Indeed, the panel began with a dozen dancers in iconic Eighties fashions gyrating in the aisles to popular songs of the decade. (To further promote this show, Nat Geo on Thursday night hosted an elaborate Eighties-themed party here at the Langham.)

A&E showcased its upcoming thriller series Bates Motel, which explores the lives of a teenaged Norman Bates and his controlling mother years before the events in the classic 1960 movie Psycho. (Bates is set in the present day, even though it's a prequel of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece.) The highlight of HBO's panels was a spirited session with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, the stars of the biographical drama Behind the Candelabra, about the relationship between the flamboyant entertainer Liberace and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson.

The opening day ended with the annual Winter tour dinner hosted by Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. In just three years the Hallmark dinner has become the most eagerly anticipated event at Winter TCA tours. This year's festivities took place at the nearby Huntington Museum. As is always true of a Hallmark event, a couple dozen stars, most of them best known for TV series from the last three decades, were on hand to freely mingle with critics. A look at TCA activities to come over the next two weeks suggests that the Hallmark dinner will remain the standout event of the tour.

To communicate with or to be contacted by the executives and/or companies mentioned in this column, link to JackMyers Connection Hotline.

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