06/01/2012 12:38 pm ET

'Cougar Town' Season 4: Producer Talks The TBS Move And What Won't Change

"Cougar Town's" third season ended Tuesday and after a dramatic rescue by TBS, the former ABC comedy was recently renewed for a fourth season. On Monday, the show's writers begin work on Season 4 of the show, which will arrive early next year.

Given everything that's been going on with the comedy, it seemed like a good time to talk to one of its creators about what's next for the Cul De Sac crew. On the most recent Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast, "Cougar Town" co-creator and executive producer Kevin Biegel talked for an hour about what fans can expect from Season 4 and whether the show's winning mixture of wine, whimsicality, wit and romance will remain unchanged. And here's a bit of news: Rumor had it that Season 4 would consist of 15 episodes, and Biegel confirmed that that is the case.

If you don't have time to listen to the whole podcast (which is available here and on iTunes), here's a list of bullet points from our conversation below.

  • What will happen in Season 4? Nothing is set in stone -- as noted above, the Season 4 writers' room hasn't begun meeting yet -- but there's a good chance the show will resurrect the idea of Andy running for public office. Some other story lines cooked up for Season 3 -- such as a big "emotional" arc for Bobby -- also stand a good chance of seeing the light of day in Season 4. We might also see more of Wade, Laurie's Internet boyfriend. And it's likely that Courteney Cox will direct more episodes in Season 4.
  • Will Travis and Laurie get together? No decision has been made about whether to get Travis and Laurie together -- that remains an ongoing source of discussions among the writers, and co-creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence has often stated his ambivalence about the idea. But we talked about that at length with Biegel, and all of us agreed that the whole idea seems a lot less weird and a lot more realistic than it would have in the first couple seasons of the show.
  • Why didn't Biegel stay on as showrunner? (Comedy veteran Ric Swartzlander was recently hired as showrunner, though Biegel and Lawrence will remain involved). Biegel said his reasoning was that it wouldn't be fair to ask the cast and crew to accept a showrunner change for Season 4 and then another showrunner change for Season 5 (and at that point, he definitely would have wanted to leave as showrunner, had he taken the position). As he explained it, it made more sense for a new showrunner to come in during Season 4, when both Biegel and co-creator Bill Lawrence could be present and hands-on, and have that person continue to guide the good ship "Cougar Town" for future seasons, if TBS commissions them. "I know some TV shows work like that" -- i.e., they change showrunners frequently -- but he and Lawrence didn't want to do that to "Cougar Town." In their minds, "the best possible version" of the transition allowed them to be around for a "smooth" and hands-on handover, Biegel said.
  • What level of involvement will Lawrence and Biegel have in Season 4? I noted that I've often been told, "The previous showrunner will be consulting and will be really involved," but then I look at the next season of a show I'd really liked and it seems to me that the "consulting" former showrunner is around briefly or, more commonly, not at all. "From the bottom of my heart, that is not going to happen," Biegel said. "We're going to be there every day." In fact, Biegel and Lawrence felt so strongly about wanting to keep the "Cougar Town" we know and love going that "if we didn't think we could maintain the tone and maintain what the show does, I think our decision would have been different" about continuing with TBS. He said that he and Lawrence really do plan to be around, will have substantial input on Season 4 and will not be merely collecting those "consulting" paychecks.
  • How will the show evolve under new showrunner Ric Swartzlander? Biegel talked a bit about the different eras of "Cheers" under different producers; a few seasons in, the show was like "a different version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," as Biegel put it, and still delicious. The idea is that "Cougar Town" could evolve in a similar way. Lawrence, Biegel and star/producer Courteney Cox were the ones who chose Swartzlander, who "had all the fears you'd kind of want someone to have," Biegel said. If someone had swaggered in and said they knew exactly what to do in Season 4, that would have "raised all kinds of red flags," but Swartzlander didn't do that. In Biegel's view, Swartzlander will bring his own sensibility and he and Lawrence will make sure not to get in his way, butm as Biegel noted, with himself, Lawrence and Cox as producers, it won't suddenly be a wildly different show. "It behooves him to keep the show as similar as possible," Biegel said.
  • What worked and what was maybe a bit rocky in Season 3? I didn't fully realize until we spoke to Biegel that the cast and crew were deep into production on Season 3 when they found out their episode order had been cut from 22 to 15, which led to some abbreviated story lines. One thing Biegel liked about Season 3: The fact that the shorter episode order meant that they spent less time on the planning of Jules' wedding to Grayson. I think I agree that there was just about enough wedding talk; any more and it would have felt like nuptial overkill.
  • What are Biegel's favorite "Cougar Town" moments? Toward the end of the podcast, Biegel talked about shows that had influenced him and how he approached "Cougar Town." And right at the end of the podcast, he talked about two of his favorite scenes in the entire history of the show. It's worth skipping to the last few minutes just to hear that part, even if you can't listen to the rest of the podcast.