'Cougar Town' Proposal: How Did The Comedy's Creators Get Their Wives To Say Yes?
As is only appropriate for a show that came back on Valentine's Day, Tuesday's "Cougar Town" season premiere ended with Grayson (Josh Hopkins) proposing to Jules (Courteney Cox).
Despite the fact that there was no doubt about the fact that she would say yes, the scene was delightfully romantic. And maybe the lack of surprise was one of the things that made the proposal so enjoyable -- viewers got to fully bask in the moment, instead of wondering if either half of the couple would be undone by doubts and angst at the last minute.
"One of the things we talk about in the writers' room is that these people love each other, and we always throw out stories that have an element of 'Our friendship is at stake!'" co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence said last week in an interview after a Los Angeles event promoting the show.
The show's co-creator, Kevin Biegel, seconded that idea and said that he, Lawrence and Cox spent a lot of time talking about the fact that "Cougar Town" would avoid the kind of "will they or won't they" ambiguity that other shows drag out endlessly.
Biegel said "It's fake and it's Bad TV Writing 101" for either Grayson or Jules to have second thoughts about getting hitched at this stage. "They're adults. They love each other. They're in their forties. They've lived through bad relationships and they know what they want, and they know this other person has what they want. The drama doesn't come from 'Will they or won't they;' the drama comes from, 'Will these people see eye to eye on [a particular] subject, and will someone have to bend to see that the other person is coming from a different perspective?'"
Yet the spirit of optimism and romanticism that I discussed in my review of the fine third season of "Cougar Town" does set the show apart from many sitcoms, which often traffic in insults and cynicism.
"We thought we would be different by doing a show about people who really did love each other and you knew it," Lawrence said. "The drag is that we didn't know we'd be so different from everything else."
Yet that core of sweetness and even kindness is probably one of the main draws for the show's loyal fan base, which came out in droves to the "Cougar Town" viewing parties that the show's cast and writers threw in different cities (my colleague Crystal Bell reported on last weekend's New York event here). Of course, the ABC comedy isn't treacly or manipulative in its use of emotion, and every scene contains its share of zingers and well-aimed putdowns; but its fans know that deep down, "Cougar Town" is a show about love.
With that in mind, I had to ask, how did Biegel and Lawrence propose to their wives? Neither went the toilet-paper route that Grayson used in Tuesday's season premiere, not surprisingly. Biegel said he panicked the day he planned to propose to his wife, because she called him to say that instead of at 5 p.m. as usual, she was coming home three hours early.
"I was like, 'You cannot be here right now!'" Biegel recalled. Because he didn't want her home early, one of his wife's friends predicted she'd receive a wedding proposal that day. So she may have seen the momentous event coming, but it still worked out well.
"She came home at 5, and she opened the door, and I had a thousand candles going," Biegel said. "I had bought every rose petal from Ralph's grocery story and scattered them all over. I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me at the front door, and when she said yes -- there's a Pogues song called 'Fairy Tale of New York,' and that was our song. I had a remote control in my pocket, so I hit my butt -- it was so lame! -- and the Pogues came on and we danced to 'Fairy Tale of New York.'"
Lawrence proposed to wife Christa Miller (who plays Ellie on "Cougar Town") when they were traveling.
"My wife likes these little antique boxes, and we were in London together, and I had the ring ready," Lawrence said. "She was being such a pain in the ass. I wanted to be like, 'Here, take it!' But at a flea market, she bought this little box, and I went over to the guy and I said, 'Put this in it,' and he wrapped it up. We went back to the hotel that night, and I said, 'Let me see those boxes.' And she was like, 'They're wrapped in paper. You don't care about them.' It took an hour. 'Why are you pretending to care about the antiques you've never cared about before?' 'Just let me see.'
"She finally opened it, and she said, 'Oh my gosh, someone left a ring in here!' 'I'm like, 'Uh, no, maybe that's for you,'" Lawrence said with a laugh. "And it got romantic then. I'm not usually that guy."