Bill Lawrence chats about NBC’s Undateable

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The mismatched roommates Danny Burton (Chris D’Elia, “Whitney”) and Justin Kearney (Brent Morin) return for season 2 of “Undateable”. This endearing group also includes Danny’s sister, Leslie (Bianca Kajlich, “Rules of Engagement”), along with oddball friends Shelly (Ron Funches), Burski (Rick Glassman), Brett (David Fynn, “Game of Thrones”)They are joined by newcomer waitress Candace (Bridgit Mendler, “Good Luck Charlie”), who becomes the gang’s “little sister”. They are still single, undateable, and figuring out life.  Executive producer Bill Lawrence chatted recently with a group of reporters, including myself, about season 2 of “Undateable“which premieres tonight 9/8c on NBC!

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Bill Lawrence is an award-winning television writer, producer and director who got his start as a staff writer on the short-lived ABC sitcom “Billy”. He continued to write on other tv shows such as “Friends”.  He made his creator debut on ABC’s “Spin City” with co-creator Gary David Goldberg, which garnered a Primetime Emmy and four Golden Globes.  He then went on to create “Scrubs”, where he was writer, producer, and director.  The show received critical acclaim and 17 Emmy nominations.

His other tv credits include “Cougar Town”, “Ground Floor”, “Clone High” to name a few along with online sensation “Nobody’s Watching.

His creativity and vision holds no bounds.  As his show “Undateable” with producer Adam Sztykiel (“Due Date,” “Made of Honor”)makes on comeback on season 2, he doesn’t slow down.  He is currently working on bringing our favorite action packed movie “Rush Hour” to tv audiences.  If it’s a Bill Lawrence show, audiences will always have something to look forward to.

He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Christa Miller (“The Drew Carey Show,” “Scrubs”); their daughter, Charlotte; and sons, William and Henry.

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Bill Lawrence:       How are you doing? I’m still writing down notes on how to ask a question. It’s very complicated.

Okay, great (laughing). Well we’re excited to see that season two is coming up. This show is hilarious. I watched season one. What are some of the biggest changes that we can expect to see for this upcoming season?

Bill Lawrence:       Well I tell you, the joke’s biggest change is it’s no longer on in the middle of the summer, twice a night, you know, like when nobody really watches TV. The biggest change on the show is – for me it was we added a new cast member. Her name is Bridgit Mendler. She was the star of Good Luck Charlie.

I’ve enjoyed watching her torture all the comics, you know, because as all these young people are on Twitter and Instagram and social media, and kind of pursuing their own brand and fame level. To have a 21 year old girl, you know, come on to the cast and immediately be more famous and popular than all of them – I enjoyed watching it drive them slowly insane, especially the male comics.

Chris D’Elia – when he introduces her he always says that when I first met Bridget I didn’t realize how lucky we were to get her. But I have a 14 year old daughter who has never really cared about coming to the show. And the second I’m like hey, this girl named Bridgit Mendler is now a regular, she went nuts because not only is the girl the star of “Good Luck Charlie”, but she’s got her own recording career – is a pop star.

And my daughter said she’s getting an award this week because her music video online just got 100 million views. And I’m like oh, I think you mean 100,000. And she’s like no, it’s 100 million.

Wow!

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Bill Lawrence:       And I just can’t believe – I know; right? I can’t believe – so to me for her to come on and say she plays the younger sister to the bar kind of, you know, girl that grew up, you know, from tough means in Detroit. And her optimism and kind of youthful spirit and how good she is at this medium have really changed this show overnight.

And she’s all in too. I mean one of the things people can check out – she immediately wrote a song for us, you know, that they put a video out. And I think …only a couple of days ago, and it’s already got – it’s called Undateable. You can see it on YouTube or NBC.com or on her own Facebook site. I think in the two days since she put it up, 500,000 people have watched it.

That’s great.  I’m excited to see this. Thanks for taking time to do this today.

Bill Lawrence:       Sure, are you kidding? I’d gladly talk about this show.

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I always like listening to you talk about comedy. Just wondering, I know you guys are doing another Undateable tour. Are you going out with the guys again? And are you doing the same cities or did you change the tour route this time?

Bill Lawrence:       The – I – you just gave me a giant panic attack because I do – I am doing a bunch of the cities with them. We leave this Sunday for Austin, Texas for South by Southwest. And I’ll be there doing it.

There’s some overlap of cities. But we’re trying some new ones too. I think we’re in Miami and Orlando which I don’t remember doing last time, although it was a haze. It is – then Vegas.

It’s always super terrifying, but an honor to get to do standup with four guys that are actually huge stand-ups. And part of the fun thing for us is the first time that we did the tour, you know, we were trying to book people. Hey, go see the Undateable Comedy Tour. And no one knew what the hell we were talking about.

And now it’s, you know, it’s really easy to sell out just because these guys now have their own fan bases. But people have actually seen the show. So I’m both terrified and looking forward to it – anything we can to give people more access.

Bill Lawrence Undateable tour 3:16:15

Got it. Thanks.

Bill Lawrence:       Sure. What city are you in? Are you going to come out to one of these?

And I missed the last one, and I’m kind of kicking myself because I really want to see it. I can only imagine, especially…

Bill Lawrence:       It’s funny.

I wish I could see the South by one. Make somebody record something since you might not remember it.

Bill Lawrence:      NBC is sending people out this time with us to record stuff and kind of behind the scenes stuff…

Perfect.

Bill Lawrence:       …now that we’ve got a cool time slot. All right.

I’ll look for that online.

Bill Lawrence:       Thanks.

It must feel really great to have that Voice lead in. Your show had some musical moments last year with  Katy Perry’s Roar. Are you planning on any musical moments this year?

Bill Lawrence:       Yes. If you watch my TV shows, I’m a sucker for music, you know? Scrubs – we had an a cappella band. We had Colin Hay. We had, you know, Josh Rabin singing Alive. We had tons of indie music, and same with Cougar Town – even back in Spin City.

Bridgit is a recording artist. Not only will the cast be singing, but much as it is in real life, whenever they do, it drives Chris D’Elia insane. And, you know, one of the things we’re really leaning into is the second that you have, you know, talented people like Bridgit and Brent who are both – Bridgit’s a very successful recording artist.

That’s why The Voice was nice enough, you know, when she wrote this song, we did a video for it. If anybody watched The Voice last week, you know, in the middle of their show they cut to a minute long version of Bridgit’s song that you can see online anywhere.

And we’re doing fun stuff like that. One of the things NBC is going to release is – Brent and Bridgit and the cast are going to be musically synopsizing our episodes every week. So, you know, the way that people used to kind of go online and read, you know, a recap – we’re doing it musically with the cast. So we’re kind of leaning into it just because everybody other than Chris is a huge fan anyways.

Is there a certain song you can use – that Brent or Bridgit will be singing during the show?

Bill Lawrence:       One of the coolest things is if you go see Brent’s act, he often improvs music, which he does. But we got Bridgit to write an original. You know for me one of the exciting things is we have people this talented. You check out the song Undateable or online or if you watch the show, she ends up playing the ukulele in some episodes and essentially writing songs.

It’s one of the coolest gifts that you have as a writer that we can – we just wrote in the script, you know, Candace – that’s Bridgit’s character – is working on a love song for a guy she likes. She sings it to the gang. And then we show up at rehearsal and she’s written a beautiful minute long song. You know if I could figure out some way to buy stock in her musical career, I would.

That’s awesome. Thanks. 

Bill Lawrence:       Sure.

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What do you bring from those shows “Cougar Town” and “Scrubs” to this show? Is there anything you learned along the way to bring to this show?

Bill Lawrence:       Yes. You know what? I mean not to just list my credits. I mean for me the first show I ever created was called “Spin City” and it was a multi-cam, you know, and much like “Undateable”. The two things I brought – well the main things I brought from all those shows to this show is – one is I really like it when the characters on a show are actually friends and they actually care about each other, and they don’t just sit around and give each other crap, you know, and act mean and snarky to each other.

They’re kind of a support group. And I think people – I hope people that like my shows like the fact that it actually seems like the people are friends in real life. You know one of the ways that we cast Undateable believe it or not – and it’s a fun story that I always tell, you know – I can’t even tell if people believe me is I think the reason the show has palpable chemistry is these four stand-ups were all friends for years before the show even started.

So when you add in Bianca to them too – because when you do a multi camera sitcom – in modern TV you have like four or five episodes for people to feel like oh, there’s chemistry and everybody loves the cast. The cast all likes each other. I just thought if you got people that were friends in real life, it would actually show.

And then the other thing, especially from working with people like Mike Fox or Zach Braff or Neil Flynn or Donald or Sarah Chalke, you know. One of the things I’ve done on all those shows is – when I was a writer at first I would just write the jokes and the lines. And I’d want the actors to say them word for word.

And Mike Fox was the first one to teach me that more often than not, if he wanted to change it or say something different, it’s going to be funnier than what I wrote. And then later when somebody says they like it, I can just take credit for it which is super fun.

And so to bring the spirit of improv and playfulness that we had on those other shows, the tapings of Undateable – people are clamoring to get in because everybody that’s seen one knows we’ve got four standup comics, improv actresses and comediennes on the show.

So instead of just watching a scene taped three times, the cast does the scene once the way it’s written. And then the second time nobody has any idea what they’re going to say. And half the time it’s super funny and unusable because it’s filthy. But half the time it’s super funny and usually even if they have to stop the scene in the middle and say hey, we have no idea how to get back to what the scene is about.

I actually go up into the audience in between takes and ask them which jokes they responded to and whether stuff went too far. It’s really kind of a thing that we started doing back in “Spin City” and “Scrubs” days.

Maybe you can use all that stuff on second screening on the web, you know, and make it available…

Bill Lawrence:       That’s a great idea. You know we’re trying to figure out a way to do that. What’s interesting is it’s really funny, some of it because, you know, these guys are working huge comics. And if you’ve seen their special, I mean I don’t think they’re filthy, but they’re certainly blue.

And so getting, you know, we’re trying hard to get NBC and Warner Brothers to allow us to put some of this stuff out there even if you have to beep them once in a while. You know it’s really funny.

Exactly. Thanks so much.

Bill Lawrence:       Sure. Thanks everybody.

BILL LAWRENCE ("COUGAR TOWN," "SCRUBS")

Another great season of “Undateable” is coming up.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Big changes is the addition of actress/singer Bridgit Mendler.  Things that stay the same? Witty banter and comedy.  Clearly the real life friendships of the cast shows through in the show.  After all, real life can be funny.  And when it deals with the real life woes of the search for Miss or Mr. Right, the show dives in headfirst.  Curious and up for some great laughs?  Live tweet the cast throughout the episode on the east coast and west coast, and tune in for tonight’s premiere after “The Voice”  and every Tuesday at 9/8c on NBC!

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Official web site: http://www.nbc.com/undateable

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Twitter:  @NBCUndateable / #Undateable

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