‘Cougar Town’ cast infiltrates other TV shows

Cougar Town won’t be back until midseason, but its stars will be everywhere this fall.

In an unusual spectacle of stunt casting, Courteney Cox and her co-stars on the third-season ABC comedy will pop up in background roles on more than a dozen shows across several networks before its season premiere early next year.

Ian Gomez is scheduled to kick things off as a doctor on tonight’s Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 9 ET/PT), followed by Cox and Christa Miller as a lesbian couple at a fertility clinic on Private Practice (ABC, 10 ET/PT).

With so many entertainment choices these days and network promotional budgets often focused on just a few programs, shows have to find ways to market themselves, executive producer Bill Lawrence says. Since Cougar Town isn’t on the air now, “we decided it might be funny to say our cast is going to be on in the fall more than any other cast.”

Cox is game for the gimmick: “I thought it was hysterical. Bill and the writers have always been great about figuring out ways to keep people aware of our show even when we’re not on TV.”

Almost all the roles are designed to be uncredited, non-speaking appearances for a cast that also includes Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Busy Philipps and Brian Van Holt. To date, 13 shows are on board, says Lawrence, who hopes eventually to have more than 20. Series include:

•ABC:Body of Proof,Castle,Dancing With the Stars,Man Up! and The Middle

•CBS:How I Met Your Mother

•Nick Jr.:Yo Gabba Gabba!

NBC’s Parenthood and CBS’ 2 Broke Girls are also likely.

In return, Cougar Town’s writers and actors, some of whom have thousands of Twitter followers, will tweet to promote their appearances.

Lining up appearances on other programs, especially on competing networks, can be tricky, but relationships forged by Lawrence, Cox and others over their years in the business reaped rewards. The Mother role is reciprocation of sorts for when Scrubs creator Lawrence allowed star Sarah Chalke to appear on the CBS show, he says.

“The fun thing is that if you can get to this point, the idea behind it, as writers and creators, is that we can help each other out,” Lawrence says.

Lawrence is no stranger to guerrilla marketing. Cougar and Scrubs cast and writers produced videos and interactive promo material; Cougar and NBC’s Community have traded shoutouts. “Hopefully, it will be kind of a game for our fans and remind people we’re still around and coming back soon enough,” he says.

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