‘Cougar Town’ premieres low; who (and what) do we blame?

The numbers were a drop.

We give Bill Lawrence a great deal of credit — he really did just about everything he could to promote his show “Cougar Town,” and that is with him hating the title of it. There were grassroots events, premiere parties around the country, and even a series of cameos featuring the stars on other shows.

So what went wrong? After seeing the show return to ABC with a 1.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic and less than 5 million viewers, there are certainly plenty of ways for us to pass the blame.

1. The lead-in is gone – When “Cougar Town” aired for most of its first two seasons, it did so following the most-successful show the network had in “Modern Family.” This isn’t there for the show anymore, and instead, “Town” is on Tuesdays following a weaker show in “Last Man Standing,” and against a lineup that included the likes of “NCIS,” “Glee,” and “The Biggest Loser.”

With the lead-in so strong from last year, it’s possible that these are the only devoted “Cougar Town” fans that were even tuning in last year — we just didn’t know it until now thanks to casual viewers keeping their TV sets on.

2. Valentine’s Day – The day of love is not always an easy day for TV — after all, many couples are out having romantic dinners or seeing movies, and sitting down for a show is less of a priority.

This certainly doesn’t apply to every American out there, but it should be noted that the vast majority of shows on TV his season or series lows — and in the case of “Ringer,” the show plunged to the lowest rating for a new scripted series in quite possibly The CW’s short history with a 0.3 rating in the demo. We’ll ultimately be curious to see what the numbers are when all DVR figures are put in — but we won’t know that for weeks.

3. The delay – There’s no questioning that ABC kept this show away from viewers for far too long. While it’s understandable that the success of “Happy Endings” allowed this show to win the Wednesday timeslot away from Courteney Cox and company, the network could have put “Cougar Town” on in October after “Last Man,” and the show would have been fresher in viewers’ minds. Instead, they tried out a dud in “Man Up!” — and in January, they aired another failure in “Work It.”

Would “Cougar Town” have fared better if it was on earlier in the year? It’s hard to say, but it would not have hurt it to have a lead-in that was stronger in October than it is now — and it also would have premiered back when people thought that the show wasn’t canceled.

4. Viewer demands – The sitcom is in the midst of a revival on TV, as evidenced by the fact that CBS is having more success than any other network at the moment with comedies. Outside of “Modern Family” and “New Girl,” there isn’t really a single-camera comedy out there with significant buzz and ratings attached to it. ABC’s Wednesday lineup is solid, but none of the other shows are smashes.

While “Cougar Town” is a show with a dedicated following, it’s also a show that is not as accessible as a “2 Broke Girls” or “The Big Bang Theory.” This is why you see such shows as “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” floundering despite being critical favorites — casual viewers aren’t looking to make a deep commitment to a show with a deep mythology. If they just want to laugh for 30 minutes, they’ll go somewhere with some jokes that are easier to laugh at from the get-go.

Ultimately, it is still possible that “Cougar Town” could get a season 4 depending on how it fares the rest of the season — but thanks to a short order this time, it’s not going to have the advantage of syndication looming if the show gets another year.

Why do you think the ratings were down, and do you think we will see the show recover?

Photo: ABC

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