The fall season kicked off Tuesday night with the premieres of 90210 and Ringer on The CW and Parenthood on NBC. 90210 and Parenthood both dropped in the ratings from their season premieres last year, but Ringer seemed to get off to a mildly impressive start with 2.74 million viewers.

That may not sound like a lot, but since 90210 only had 1.63 million viewers, it was a huge improvement for The CW and marked the network’s highest ratings on Tuesday at 9pm in more than three years.

The CW, however, gets graded on a curve when it comes to ratings. Getting under 3 million viewers would mean instant cancellation for CBS or FOX, but on The CW, it just might be good enough.

In the history of The CW, the network launched 15 new scripted shows in its first five years, nine of which were canceled after just one season. Unfortunately for Ringer, it falls seventh in terms of CW series premieres.

The CW hit it big with The Vampire Diaries and 90210, both earning more than 4.5 million viewers for their premieres (it’s probably a bad sign that 90210 lost over 3 million viewers from the series premiere to the season 4 premiere). Gossip Girl and Nikita also started strong, both with over 3.5 million viewers. Reaper comes in fifth with around 3.3 million viewers when it started.

The bad news for Ringer is that, last season, Hellcats started with over 3 million viewers, but dropped steadily throughout the year, especially when it moved to Ringer‘s current timeslot, and was then cut.

Here’s a new look at the top 10 CW series premieres so far, though I expect The Secret Circle to crack this list with its premiere Thursday night.

4.91 million: The Vampire Diaries (currently in season 3)
4.65 million: 90210 (currently in season 4)
3.57 million: Nikita (currently in season 2)
3.5 million: Gossip Girl (currently in season 5)
3.28 million: Reaper (canceled after two seasons)
3.02 million: Hellcats (canceled after one season)
2.74 million: Ringer (currently in season 1)
2.73 million: Life Unexpected (canceled after two seasons)
2.4 million: Privileged (canceled after one season)
2.35 million: Runaway (canceled after one season)

The good news is that Ringer’s premiere was virtually identical in ratings to Life Unexpected, which got to run for two seasons. Luckily it didn’t do under 2.5 million, since all eight shows that started that low were canceled in their first season.

What do these numbers mean? Well, Ringer is off to a pretty solid start, but the real test will be whether the ratings drop significantly over the next few weeks. It had a free pass in terms of competition this week, but next week it will go against the Dancing with the Stars results show, The Biggest Loser, NCIS: Los Angeles and the premieres of FOX’s New Girl and Raising Hope. Those are some heavy hitters in terms of ratings and could lead Ringer to a big drop for its second episode.

Can Ringer fend off the competition and keep pulling in solid numbers for The CW? Or will it plummet like Hellcats, which was getting less than one million viewers by the time the first season ended? Time will tell, but for now, Sarah Michelle Gellar fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the premiere wasn’t a total disaster, which is really the best that can be said for 2.74 million viewers.

(Image courtesy of the CW)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.