Cougar Town Boss Flattered Not Offended By Community Tribute: 'No One's Taking Digs at Us'

Cougar Town fans will be happy to know that last night’s episode of Communityfilled to the brim with shout-outs to the ABC laughfest — did not go unnoticed by the Cul-de-sac Crew. In fact, C-Town exec producer Bill Lawrence hints to TVLine that a friendly retaliatory strike is less a question of if than when.

TVLINE | You were obviously aware of what Community had in store for Cougar Town prior to last night’s episode, but was that the first you’d seen of it?
It was the first time I saw it. Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan are executive producers over on Community now and they helped me run Scrubs for years. So, when they were doing the episode, Neil actually took a picture of the [script] page and sent it to us on his phone — partly to challenge us to reciprocate!

TVLINE | How fun! So, what did you think of it?
It was really cool. I like the show anyway and watched it before they made Abed like Cougar Town, so I’m not late to the show. I think it’s funny and it’s in my wheelhouse. I’m a movie nerd and we used to do movie spoofs on Scrubs all the time. Plus, I saw the My Dinner With Andre aspect of it right away. The sweater was a big giveaway.

TVLINE | There are fans out there who are still insisting that Community was making fun of Cougar Town — care to clear the air?
I just turned on my computer and it’s still exploding with Community talk. Yeah, no one‘s taking digs at Cougar Town. There is no way they would do that stuff without talking to us, and we wouldn’t do it without talking to them. And by the way, Jeff is allowed to make fun of the show’s name. I make fun of the name. It’s a horrible name. And the fact that Abed, a pop culture nerd, thinks it’s a good show is incredibly flattering. On our show, the pop culture nerd is Dan Byrd’s Travis. We got delayed on our hiatus, but we already slipped a Community mention in when he made his girlfriend watch the Season 1 DVD on their first date.

TVLINE | How did this whole mutual admiration society get started.
I talk to Neil all the time and I like [Community creator] Dan [Harmon], so we were all talking back and forth about how both shows have their own mountains to climb. Community is this geek-cool, street cred, funny show with a tough time slot. And Cougar Town, well, we screwed ourselves with a crappy title. Anyway, we were just fantasizing about gags and I pitched one idea that Dan hated. I said we should do the exact same “C” story in both shows. We would do it with Travis and Laurie and they do it with Troy and Abed and we’d see if anyone notices. It eventually just evolved into a mutual respect thing.

TVLINE | It’s pretty unprecedented to do this much cross-network promotion, but it is clearly resonating with fans of both shows.

The cooler story here for me, besides the fact that we all like each other’s shows, is that in the modern landscape of TV, with your network hopefully airing a commercial for you here or there, it’s a cool way to promote your show. On some level, this could be a cool thing — if you can find a show with a similar sensibility that’s not on your network, and somehow find a way to feed your audience to them and vice versa, it might be a new angle to help shows survive. It’s really interesting if writers can help cross-promote each other’s shows. It’s genuine from our side that we actually dig their show, and I assume it’s genuine from their side, too. [Laughs]

TVLINE | And now, the big question: Any chance we’ll see more Community love on Cougar Town?
Production on the show is already done for the season, but I feel like if people pay close attention, they’ll see that we do reciprocate. That would be my hint.

Cougar Town returns to ABC on Monday, April 18 at 9:30/8:30c, before settling back into its regular time slot on Wednesday, April 20. And NBC’s Community is back Thursday, April 14 at 8/7c.