Credit: Richard Foreman/ABC

Well … you can’t say Cougar Town‘s cast and producers didn’t try.

The third season of ABC’s comedy returned significantly lower in the ratings. In its new (and much tougher) time period, Cougar Town delivered 4.8 million viewers and a 1.8 adults 18-49 rating Tuesday night. This is a series low for the show (The CW’s Ringer also had some particularly bad news, below).

It’s arguably unfair to compare Cougar Town to its own 3.4 premiere last year (from which it’s down 47 percent). The show debuted in the fall on Wednesday nights with a lead-in from top-rated Modern Family. Whereas last night’s time slot in a few short months has been haunted by the short-lived Man Up (which premiered to a 2.4 rating) and Work It (2.0). Cougar Town‘s 1.8 rating is about average for this slot, but that’s not great considering the two shows that mainly generated that number were cancelled. It’s lead-in, Last Man Standing, had 7.6 million viewers and a 2.0 rating.

The numbers follow the show’s cast and creator Bill Lawrence traveling the country and guerrilla marketing the hell out of Cougar Town for the past month. Yesterday, Lawrence told us that he figured the show would return lower, but had hopes for the upcoming weeks.

“Here’s what I really think will happen: I think the show will not premiere as high as people hope,” Lawrence predicted to EW. “And what I hope will happen is what always happened on Scrubs when they brought it back. The first week, the numbers are always lower than their predecessor….But what would happen then, as people became educated that the show was back on, each week it would be higher. The next week, the gap would be closed.”

Also it should be noted that Valentine’s Day is pretty lousy for shows in general. Overall TV usage was down 7.3 percent last night, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile ABC’s The River (5.0 million, 1.7) is getting washed out, falling 29 percent its second week.At 10 p.m. Body of Proof (6.2 million, 1.2) was soft.

No Valentine for Sarah Michelle Gellar: With only a repeat of Hart of Dixie for a lead-in, Ringer (1.1 million, 0.3) fell a stunning 40 percent from last week to a series low (and down 50 percent from its midseason return two weeks ago). A 0.3 rating is like Remodeled and H8R territory for The CW.

Also Tuesday: CBS won the night with NCIS (3.9), NCIS: LA (3.2) and Unforgettable (2.3) — all down between 3-7 percent.. Fox was second with Glee (2.8) down 15 percent, New Girl (3.2) down 9 percent and a steady Raising Hope (2.1). NBC was third with Biggest Loser (2.0) down 13 percent to a season low and Parenthood (1.6).

Episode Recaps

Cougar Town
Courteney Cox stars in Bill Lawrence’s ensemble comedy
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