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ABC’s hit sitcom will return for its third season on February 14, following an unprecedented, nationwide promotional campaign. Cougar Town, a half-hour comedy starring Courteney Cox (Friends, Scream), follows Jules Cobb (Cox) and her close circle of friends as they attempt to navigate their way through parenthood, marriage, dating and work.
The series has been off the air in the U.S. since last May after ABC opted against giving the show a spot on its fall schedule, offering only vague assertions that it would return at some point at ‘midseason‘. However, the series’ cast and crew have turned to social media in an effort to maintain public interest and to engage with their fan base in a face-to-face manner.
The main feature of their promotional campaign has been Cougar Town viewing parties, which have been in operation across the U.S. for several weeks now as cast and crew members travelled to various cities to interact with fans, offer special screenings of new episodes, take part in Q&A sessions, and to counteract any waning interest as a result of ABC’s delay in confirming a return date for the series, which had previously been airing alongside the network’s Emmy award-winning series Modern Family.
In a further effort to reignite the old and spark some new interest, series star Courteney Cox joined Twitter in January of this year and has since amassed over 90,000 followers. Cox has sent out over 1,000 tweets, the majority of which have sought to publicise the show and to offer Cougar Town fans exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.
As recently as Wednesday February 8, Cox was overseeing a competition to reward 50 fans with bottles of wine – in partnership with THECULTWINE.COM - provided that fans show proof of their age and make a pledge to watch Cougar Town on Tuesday February 14 at 8:30pm.
This is not the first time that cast-members involved with the series have reached out as a way of rewarding and strengthening their audience’s support. In an April 2011 episode, one character read out a telephone number which viewers could in turn call. If they got through, they could speak to actors, writers, and various others involved with the series.
These tactics have all been designed to keep Cougar Town on the public radar in spite of its middling ratings, with several fans going so far as to display billboards in support of the show during television coverage of this year’s Super Bowl, in the hopes of winning a walk-on role from the producers.
Show-runner Bill Lawrence recently expressed his frustration over the ‘flawed system‘ which monitors television ratings and which will ultimately determine the future of his series beyond this season, explaining that the primary hope of his self-funded campaigning is for:
a Nielsen family [to] … want to keep show alive. Ruining it for the masses or encouraging them to watch on their computer doesn’t matter until the system changes.
While there have been instances in the past of grass-roots campaigns being organised to combat network decisions – for example when Jericho fans persuaded CBS to reverse the series’ cancellation in 2007 – the involvement of the Cougar Town cast in this campaign has been particularly note-worthy, as has the fact the majority of their events have been planned entirely through the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The true impact of Lawrence’s, Cox’s, the audience’s and others’ efforts to promote Cougar Town will be made apparent in the coming weeks when the series returns to ABC’s schedule and everyone involved attempts to lure, and hopefully increase, their 7.3 million weekly viewers from last season.