When ABC announced that Jennifer Aniston would be guest-starring on the second season premiere of Cougar Town, most assumed it was thanks to Courteney Cox, the show's star and executive producer and Aniston's Friends castmate and BFF. But executive producer Bill Lawrence tells a different story.
"I generally say things and then hope that they're going to happen," Lawrence tells TVGuide.com. "I announced last year that Jennifer Aniston was doing the show having never spoken to her or her representatives. "
No matter what Lawrence (or Cox) did to get Aniston on the series, it worked. She plays Jules' therapist in the season's first episode, and there's the possibility that the character will return. The Friendly face is just part of an effort to get more eyeballs on Cougar Town, which wrapped its first season with just 6.16 million viewers. New ads for the show feature the tagline "insert surprise guest here."
The second season shifts focus away from Jules' dating life and toward her eccentric neighbors. Lawrence describes where the show is now as "a Courteney Cox-lead ensemble comedy." The Scrubs creator called the adjustments "a natural evolution."
"One of the tough things about television now is that shows used to get a longer time to find themselves," he says. "It usually takes about six episodes for every show you love to eventually become what it is."
Season 2 will also deal with the departure of Jules' only son, Travis (Dan Byrd), who is moving away to go to college... 20 minutes away. "[The show is] about a bunch of people that would be very lonely were it not for each other," Lawrence says. "We'll continue as we left off ... but it will be really driven by Jules fighting that empty nest loneliness."
Helping her deal is new boyfriend Grayson (Josh Hopkins). After working every last will-they-or-won't-they nerve last season, they officially became a couple in the season finale. That said, Lawrence warns that their romantic future is still uncertain. "I think as writers, if it's working, we'll stick with it," Lawrence says. "We always joke on set that it's really about whether Josh pisses Courteney off or not. Because he gets lots of material now that he's in that relationship."
Lawrence also says he hopes to bring more "friends of the family" to the show. Scrubs regular Ken Jenkins has already signed on to play Jules' dad, but Lawrence says he is also hoping to get Sarah Chalke, John C. McGinley and Zach Braff to do guest spots.
Even with Lawrence's and Cox's connections, Lawrence says that Cougar Town is still steering clear of the kind of guest-star overload that some series face.
Not everyone in the cast agrees with this plan. Christa Miller, who plays Jules' best friend Ellie and is Lawrence's real-life wife, constantly pitches him new possible love interests, including George Clooney. "All she does is pitch different handsome guys that she wants to kiss," he jokes. "That's why her character is married."
Cougar Town returns for Season 2 on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.