Cox's 'Cougar Town' parties on

Ian Gomez (left) as Andy, Christa Miller as Ellie, Brian Van Holt as Bobby, Josh Hopkins as...

Ian Gomez (left) as Andy, Christa Miller as Ellie, Brian Van Holt as Bobby, Josh Hopkins as Grayson, Courteney Cox as Jules, Busy Philipps as Laurie and Dan Byrd as Travis.

BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 PM ET

Some might call it a crime against nature that Cougar Town would host its own gorilla -- make that guerilla -- party to generate it own publicity.

But it happened last week at the Television Critics Association tour. And voila, this week it was announced that the delayed third season of Cougar Town finally has a debut date: Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, on ABC and Citytv.

There surely was no direct link between the two events. This was more about Work It being a cross-dressing catastrophe, and a spot opening up on ABC's schedule.

But the dual developments reiterated just how unique Cougar Town continues to be -- comedically, creatively, and even physically as it relates to network space and time.

"The people are blunt, they're not fake, I like it," star Courteney Cox said at the Cougar Town party, referring to the characters on her show, rather than unnamed network executives.

Well, if bluntness is on the board, here's how it all went down.

Upon checking into the hotel in Pasadena where the Winter 2012 TCA event was being held, TV critics received a private video message from the creators of Cougar Town, Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel.

"TCAs are coming up. That's when networks trot out the shows they're excited about ... no, not ours," Lawrence began.

"We aren't technically invited as a show. So we're going to go ahead and crash TCAs."

Reporters then were invited to an "unofficial" party a few days hence in the hotel bar, where the full cast and creators of Cougar Town would be available for interviews. "It's really more of a wine-drinking event," Lawrence said.

As if free booze weren't enough, Lawrence offered this final enticement: "I can't imagine us possibly saying anything that would get anybody into any type of trouble, especially with the network they work for."

Lawrence, formerly the creator of Scrubs, always has been outspoken. And while neither he nor the cast of Cougar Town said anything specifically libelous at the cocktail party -- and it was a great party, by the way -- the overriding emotion was frustration that the critically acclaimed show has bounced around the schedule so much.

"I think we're doing good work, and I'm so happy that the people who are diehard fans like it," Cox said. "But it would be nice if the numbers would show it, so we wouldn't have to prove it to others, to the people who actually hired us."

Ironically, Cox looked longingly at the relative stability of 30 Rock, another ratings-challenged show that recently began its sixth season on NBC and Citytv.

"I don't know what their numbers are, but people love that show, I love that show," Cox said. "But it's not for the masses. Yet they are really critically acclaimed and (Tina Fey) is such a genius."

Part of the reason 30 Rock has survived is that struggling NBC just can't cancel everything, you know? The longevity of 30 Rock has been achieved almost by default, while Cougar Town would love to be that lucky over at ABC.

"It's nice to be so popular within a select group, but I think we do need to get the people who love us to spread the word, and that's why we're doing this promotion," Cox said at the party. "To sustain on the air, you have to have a little more."

Viewers hate to be scolded, so with earnestness rather than preachiness, I'll say this: While no comedy is for everyone, I personally find Cougar Town funny, with some of the sharpest writing on TV.

First Cougar Town held a renegade cocktail party. Now at least it has been invited back to the big dance.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca


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