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Following months of uncertainty over the future of ‘Cougar Town’, which stars Golden Globe nominee Courteney Cox, it was revealed on Thursday May 10 that a deal has been made which will see the critically-beloved, but low-rated, series move to TBS for a fourth season, set to air in early 2013.
There had been rumors of such a deal in the last week, with initial reports suggesting that TBS would pick-up ‘Cougar Town’ for 30 episodes spread across two seasons. However, as it stands TBS has only renewed it for Season 4, with the actors under contract for Season 5 should it perform well enough for TBS to order an additional season.
This move comes after a difficult life for the series on ABC. Premiering to strong ratings in the fall of 2009, ‘Cougar Town’ was scheduled alongside ABC’s number one comedy ‘Modern Family’ and performed well-enough to stay in that slot for two seasons. However, its ratings weren’t quite on par with ‘Modern Family’, and ABC pulled it from the schedule while it tried out a variety of other comedies, hoping to find a more compatible fit for ‘Modern Family’.
But no such series was found while ‘Cougar Town’ remained off the air, until February of this year. When the series finally did return to ABC, it was scheduled alongside freshman comedy ‘Last Man Standing’, a much lower-rated series than ‘Modern Family’ and one which skews a significantly different audience demographic. The combination of a protracted hiatus and an incompatible lead-in resulted in poor ratings for ‘Cougar Town’, as well as an unlikely chance at renewal on ABC for next season.
However, with 61 episodes under its belt and with it being owned by ABC Studios, the series is too close to syndication for ABC to cancel it altogether. With the new TBS deal, ABC will still benefit financially if the series produces enough episodes for syndication, which it presumably will in light of TBS and ABC coming to this agreement in the first place.
‘Cougar Town’ is not the first series in recent history to switch networks, nor is it the first for co-creator Bill Lawrence (his last series, ‘Scrubs’, aired on NBC for seven seasons before moving over to ABC in 2008).
Yet, ‘Cougar Town’s move does mark a blow to the long working relationship between Lawrence and ABC. Although ‘Scrubs’ aired on NBC for the majority of its run, it too was owned by ABC Studios, while prior to that Lawrence had co-created the sitcom ‘Spin City” which had a six season run on ABC from 1996 to 2002.