Comedians Launch A Robust Promotional Tour For Upcoming NBC Sitcom 'Undateable'

Remember a few years back when ABC was dithering with “Cougar Town,” an entertaining comedy with a terrific cast that for some reason had not become a breakout hit for the network? It was lingering in a prolonged midseason limbo, waiting for an opportunity to return to ABC’s schedule, when series creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence decided to take matters into his own hands.

Lawrence concocted a great plan to promote the show in a way not ordinarily done. In tandem with has team and using mostly his own money -- which was key to having ABC sign off on his doing whatever he wanted to do -- Lawrence put together a highly unique grassroots, cross-country promotional tour for the show. In early 2012, at bars and clubs from coast to coast, various cast members from “Cougar Town,” including series lead Courteney Cox, made personal appearances to host viewing parties and treat fans to screenings of one or two fresh episodes of the show. At that point, nobody had seen a new episode of “Cougar Town” since May 2011.

In a very smart move, Lawrence included in his promotional itinerary a classy cocktail party with the full cast of the show for critics and reporters at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena during the January 2012 Television Critics Tour. It resulted in dozens of columns and hundreds of tweets and blog entries in support of the show.

The parties filled up, the alcohol flowed (as it does on the show), and the Internet exploded with wave after wave of support for Lawrence’s unique promotional efforts and for the show itself. But when “Cougar Town” finally returned to ABC in February 2012, it once again failed to earn strong enough ratings to keep it on the network.

But it did attract a large enough audience and make enough noise overall for “Cougar Town” to find a new and far more appropriate home -- on TBS, where it is currently in its fifth season (its second on the cable network).

Now, Lawrence and Co. have put together a similar promotional blitz for his latest sitcom, a new NBC entry titled “Undateable,” well ahead of its network premiere, which has yet to be announced. (It seems to be in the same kind of limbo as was “Cougar Town” in early 2012.) The four lead actors in the show, who are all stand-up comics, are currently appearing together at comedy clubs in nine major cities around the country to promote their series. Lawrence is traveling with the group to host each event. Having attended several press events that Lawrence was a part of I can attest to the fact that he is outstanding in that capacity.

The tour began this week with gigs in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It continues during the next two weeks at locations in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Warner Bros., the studio that produces “Undateable,” two months ago hosted an event in Pasadena during this year’s Winter TCA tour that served as a trial run of sorts for this promotional blitz. After screening an episode of the show and taking questions from the press, the four stars of “Undateable” -- Chris D’Elia, Brent Morin, Ron Funches and Rick Glassman -- each performed a standup set. I already knew D’Elia was hilarious, having caught his uncensored special on Comedy Central just a couple of weeks before this event. But Morin, Funches and Glassman also had the somewhat jaded crowd laughing hysterically throughout their routines.

“Undateable” is about a group of twenty-something and thirty-something friends who are consistently unlucky in relationship building. If the pilot is any indication, the comic energy maintained between the four leads and their co-stars is as sharp and entertaining as their individual stand-up routines. It may not prove to be the funniest new sitcom of the 2013-14 season, but it looks to be much more accessible and satisfying than many of its freshman classmates. The young and heavily male Comedy Central audience ought to love it, and that’s as sturdy a foundation these days as any new comedy might hope for. I wonder what’s taking NBC so long to make room for it on its schedule?      

 

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