Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton

The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (of which I'm a charter voting member) handed out its inaugural Critics' Choice Television Awards on June 20. On the red carpet, the nominated actors and producers — all hopeful they'll also be on the Primetime Emmy ballot when it's announced July 14 — filled me in on what they're hatching for their exciting fall returns.

The Middle (Best Comedy nominee)
Cocreator Eileen Heisler tells me they are superclose to signing Patricia Heaton's former TV hubby, Ray Romano, as a special guest star for the one-hour road trip season premiere, which begins shooting mid-August. "It's looking promising," says Heisler. Ray's likely role? "Someone from Frankie and Mike's past we'd see in flashback interfering with their honeymoon." Adds Patricia: "If you have Ray, you want it to be organic and make sense, and this would. I think he'll have a blast!" The Middle's premiere will be paired with a one-hour Modern Family, about the Dunphys' summer vacation.  

The Big Bang Theory (Best Comedy nominee; Best Actor in a Comedy, Jim Parsons)
Cocreator Bill Prady says to expect a wedding for Howard and Bernadette in the spring. "All the wedding planning will be throughout the season, including selection of the best man and maid of honor," he says. "The bachelor party will be miserable, but the hardest part for Howard will be trying to leave his mother's house."

Cougar Town (Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, Busy Philipps)
Courteney Cox
and Busy Philipps say the series is getting closer to changing its title to... Friends With Beverages. Though ABC had no comment, Courteney tells me she loves the new moniker because "it's a play on 'friends with benefits,' it's a play on Friends, and we all sure drink a lot of wine. When I spoke to [cocreator] Bill Lawrence about this a couple of weeks ago, he was liking this one, but there are still other titles on the board."

Mad Men (Best Drama; Best Actor in a Drama, Jon Hamm; Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, Christina Hendricks)
With Mad Men going into production in August and pregnant January Jones not due until September, creator Matthew Weiner says, "When nature takes its course, I will have to deal with her being absent for maternity leave. But we can work around her. There's going to be some new people." (Would any of us really miss Betty?) Jon Hamm, who'll direct the season premiere, says his appearance on Saturday Night Live last season in a live version of "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" with Jimmy Fallon has spawned a movie script written by Stephen Colbert and Robert Smigel. But Jon's not so sure he'd be up for reprising his role. "We shot the first one in two days, and it was a lot of hard work. A whole movie? I don't know. We'll see if someone would be willing to pay."

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