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Shows That Aired After the Super Bowl: 10 Touchdowns, 5 Fumbles, 1 Field Goal

Shows That Aired After the Super Bowl: 10 Touchdowns, 5 Fumbles, 1 Field Goal

“What to air after the Big Game?” That is the millions-of-viewers question that faces one broadcast-TV network each year, when its turn rolls around to host the Super Bowl.

For Super Bowl LVIII, airing Sunday, Feb. 11 and pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs ft. Taylor Swift, CBS announced back in May that the series premiere of Tracker, starring This Is Us‘ Justin Hartley, would lay claim to the cushiest real estate in the business, leading out of a championship game that should draw more than 100 million viewers.

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It is often the case that a Super Bowl broadcaster uses the plum spot to debut a new series or showcase an existing one. Yet while following the Super Bowl invariably brings a supersized audience, it is not always a bellwether of future success.

In the gallery below, TVLine has singled out five shows that Fumbled the opportunity… 10 that in one way (ratings) or another (quality) scored a Touchdown… and one that, though highly regarded, merely put up a Field Goal.

But first, some Fun Facts!

🏈 Over the past decade, the program following the Super Bowl has averaged 22.7 million total viewers (in Live+Same Day tallies). The least-watched in that stretch actually came just last year, when Fox’s Next Level Chef Season 2 premiere drew fewer than 16 million viewers.

🏈 Over the past 25 years, a drama series has been chosen to lead out of the Super Bowl 10 times (most recently in 2021, when CBS launched The Equalizer). Comedies have filled the slot seven times, reality-TV has gotten the nod six times and a late-night talk show claimed the coveted spot once, as did Winter Olympics coverage. Speaking of….

🏈 NBC going with Winter Olympics coverage in 2022 marked the first time since 1976 — when CBS aired the Phoenix Open golf tournament after Super Bowl X — that more sports followed the Big Game.

🏈 The last comedy to air after the Super Bowl was Fox’s pairing of New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which in 2014 respectively drew 26.3 million and 15.1 million viewers. (Fun fact within a fact: Fox’s Family Guy debuted after the Super Bowl in 1999, and now is in Season 22!)

🏈 Of the last 25 series to follow the Super Bowl, only two wound up not getting renewed that year: CBS’ The World’s Best and Fox’s 24: Legacy reboot.

🏈 Heading into Super Bowl LVIII, CBS’ track record is quite solid, with its last four post-game shows (The Equalizer series premiere in 2021, the launch of The World’s Best in ’19, The Late Show in ’16 and an episode of Elementary in ’13) all drawing at least 21 million viewers. And among the Top 10 most-watched lead-outs ever, the Eye Network lays claim to the No. 2 spot (Survivor: The Australian Outback with 45 million viewers in 2001) and No. 6 (Undercover Boss with 39 million viewers in 2010).

🏈 Over the past 25 years, a series premiere has been chosen to lead out of the Super Bowl just four times (most recently with CBS’ The Equalizer in 2021 and now Tracker) — while in the 28 years before Friends followed the Big Game, a pilot episode got picked 12 times.

🏈 Though that 1996 episode of Friends lays claim to the largest audience on record for a Super Bowl lead-out (53 million viewers!!), CBS’ All in the Family (in 1978) and 60 Minutes (1980) delivered sliiiightly larger shares (47 and 50 percent) of their available audiences.

🏈 ABC’s Alias (in 2003) and CBS’ Elementary (in 2013) were saddled with some of the latest start times (after 11 pm ET!) on record for a Super Bowl aftershow. Conversely, the record-setting Friends episode enjoyed one of the earliest kickoffs, airing just a few minutes after 10 o’clock.

FUMBLE: Brothers and Sisters (1979)

FUMBLE: Brothers and Sisters (1979)
FUMBLE: Brothers and Sisters (1979)

No, not ABC’s Sally Field/Calista Flockhart family drama. This NBC comedy was one of three (count ’em, three) series to try to capitalize on the Animal House craze in early 1979 alone. Its Super Bowl Sunday audience was 31.7 million viewers, leading out of the Steelers’ 35-31 squeaker over the Cowboys. And yet, like the similarly ill-fated Delta House (on ABC) and Co-Ed Fever (on CBS), it was expelled from the airwaves by April.

FUMBLE: The Last Precinct (1986)

FUMBLE: The Last Precinct (1986)
FUMBLE: The Last Precinct (1986)

Despite being No. 5 on the list of most watched apres-Super Bowl programs — its pilot episode drew nearly 40 million viewers, leading out of the Bears’ 46-10 thrashing of the Patriots — this NBC police comedy (from Stephen J. Cannell and starring Adam West) was quickly cancelled and only aired seven total episodes.

FUMBLE: Grand Slam (1990)

FUMBLE: Grand Slam (1990)
FUMBLE: Grand Slam (1990)

The pilot for this CBS action-drama about two bounty hunters (played by The Dukes of Hazzard‘s John Schneider and comedian Paul Rodriguez) delivered 30.8 million total viewers on game night — and then took a nosedive, inviting the axe after just six airings.

FUMBLE: Extreme (1995)

FUMBLE: Extreme (1995)
FUMBLE: Extreme (1995)

This pilot for this ABC drama about a search-and-rescue team operating out of the Rocky Mountains of Utah drew 22.6 million total viewers… which it quickly squandered, and in turn got cancelled after seven total airings. The cast included James Brolin and future Modern Family momma Julie Bowen.

FUMBLE: The World’s Best (2019)

FUMBLE: The World’s Best (2019)
FUMBLE: The World’s Best (2019)

Our fifth and final “Fumble” was a toss-up between this freshman CBS competition series and Fox’s 24: Legacy (which debuted after the Big Game two years prior), seeing as both turned out to be one-and-done efforts. But The World’s Best‘s far steeper drop-off — from 22.2 million viewers and a 7.0 demo rating to 5.6 million and a scant 1.0 with its first regularly scheduled episode — coupled with an average “C+” grade from TVLine readers and near-zero buzz, secured it this dishonor.

TOUCHDOWN: The Wonder Years (1988)

TOUCHDOWN: The Wonder Years (1988)
TOUCHDOWN: The Wonder Years (1988)

Airing after (what would become known as) the Washington Football Team’s 42-10 bucking of the Broncos, ABC’s 1960s-set family dramedy enjoyed a premiere audience of nearly 29 million — and went on to run for more than 100 episodes.

TOUCHDOWN: Homicide: Life on the Street (1993)

TOUCHDOWN: Homicide: Life on the Street (1993)
TOUCHDOWN: Homicide: Life on the Street (1993)

Boasting a stellar cast (including an up-and-coming Andre Braugher) and loads of bona fides (Paul Attanasio adapted the crime drama from David Simon’s similarly titled book), this NBC freshman enjoyed a debut audience of more than 28 million, leading out of the Cowboys’ 51-17 trouncing of the Bills. Homicide: Life on the Street wound up running for seven seasons (and a movie).

TOUCHDOWN: Friends (1996)

TOUCHDOWN: Friends (1996)
TOUCHDOWN: Friends (1996)

The most watched Super Bowl lead-out on record, “The One After the Superbowl” retained nearly 53 million (!) total viewers following the Cowboys’ 27-17 win over the Steelers. The double-episode outing guest-starred Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Fred Willard, Dan Castellaneta, crooner Chris Isaak and action-movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Try to make time for THR’s oral history, which includes among other things the tale of one guest star’s tongue gone wild.

TOUCHDOWN: The X-Files (1997)

TOUCHDOWN: The X-Files (1997)
TOUCHDOWN: The X-Files (1997)

The Season 4 episode “Leonard Betts,” which drew 29 million viewers following the Packers and Pats’ 35-21 matchup, is regarded both for ER doc Paul McCrane’s titular, head-turning turn and for being the episode in which Scully first suspects she has cancer.

TOUCHDOWN: Survivor: The Australian Outback (2001)

TOUCHDOWN: Survivor: The Australian Outback (2001)
TOUCHDOWN: Survivor: The Australian Outback (2001)

The kickoff to the competition series’ second season — which came just five months after its freshman finale — drew 45.4 million total viewers, trailing only Friends among Super Bowl lead-outs and setting the stage for what to this day remains Survivor‘s most watched, highest rated cycle ever.

TOUCHDOWN: Grey’s Anatomy (2006)

TOUCHDOWN: Grey’s Anatomy (2006)
TOUCHDOWN: Grey’s Anatomy (2006)

Landing two-thirds of the way through the buzzy medical drama’s second season, “It’s the End of the World” famously guest-starred future Friday Night Lights coach Kyle Chandler as a bomb squad leader who helps Dr. Meredith Grey, best he can, keep an explosive lodged inside a patient’s chest cavity from going boom. It stands as the most-watched drama episode (with 37.8 million viewers) to ever follow the Big Game.

TOUCHDOWN: House (2008)

TOUCHDOWN: House (2008)
TOUCHDOWN: House (2008)

Landing at No. 16 in total audience (with 29.1 million Super Bowl Sunday viewers) and the first drama chosen to follow a Fox-hosted Super Bowl in more than a decade, House‘s “Frozen” episode saw the titular doc trying to remotely diagnose a researcher (played by Academy Award winner/guest star Mira Sorvino) at the South Pole who had suddenly fallen ill. Telemedicine! Whodathunkit?!

TOUCHDOWN: Undercover Boss (2010)

TOUCHDOWN: Undercover Boss (2010)
TOUCHDOWN: Undercover Boss (2010)

Talk about found money. Leading out of the Saints’ 31-17, fourth-quarter win over the Colts, this relatively low-profile reality series enjoyed 38.7 million total samplers, as the President and COO of Waste Management went incognito among his employees. A Season 2 renewal followed barely a month later, and Season 11 finaled last April.

TOUCHDOWN: The Voice (2012)

TOUCHDOWN: The Voice (2012)
TOUCHDOWN: The Voice (2012)

Coming off a red-hot freshman run, what better way to tee up Season 2 of the singing competition than with a Super Bowl Sunday showcase? Drawing 37.6 million viewers (following the Giants’ 21-17 win over the Patriots), The Voice‘s sophomore opener — which had a reasonable 10:15 pm start time — stands as the No. 8 most watched post-Super Bowl program ever.

TOUCHDOWN: This Is Us (2018)

TOUCHDOWN: This Is Us (2018)
TOUCHDOWN: This Is Us (2018)

With 27 million total viewers (leading out of the Eagles’ 41-33 win over the Patriots),  “Super Bowl Sunday” is only the eighth-most watched drama episode to ever air after the Big Game. And though some felt the episode’s themes were especially dark for the family drama, there was a certain brilliance in using this primo showcase to reveal, after nearly two seasons, exactly how Pearson family patriarch Jack perished. And we have not looked at a Crock Pot the same ever since.

FIELD GOAL: Alias (2003)

FIELD GOAL: Alias (2003)
FIELD GOAL: Alias (2003)

Lord knows, ABC’s J.J. Abrams spy drama made every effort to capitalize on its plum Super Bowl Sunday perch, leading straight out of the game with a lingerie-clad  Jennifer Garner walking in slow motion while caressing a riding crop, and then packing the hour with XL amounts of action. Beyond that, the episode “Phase One” deigned to change the game for Sydney Bristow & Co. by effectively shuttering the sinister SD-6, serving up Sydney and Vaughn’s first kiss, and then, for good measure, having BFF Francie killed by… her doppelganger?! (See where “Phase One” ranks among Alias‘ best episodes ever.)

Alas, what keeps this seminal Alias episode from scoring a full touchdown is the cold, hard fact that — perhaps stymied by a late, post-11 pm start time, following the Bucs’ 48-21 blowout against the Raiders — it stands as one of the least-watched Super Bowl lead-outs ever, with just 17.4 million viewers. (Read much more about the making of the Super Bowl episode on Page 3 of TVLine’s Alias Oral History.)

🏈 THE TOP 10 MOST WATCHED SUPER BOWL LEAD-OUTS 🏈
Friends (NBC, 1996) — 52.9 million viewers
Survivor: Australia* (CBS, 2001) — 45.4 million
Raid on Entebbe (NBC TV-movie, 1977) — 42.8 million
60 Minutes (CBS, 1980) — 40.8 million
The Last Precinct** (NBC, 1986) — 39.7 million
Undercover Boss** (CBS, 2010) — 38.7 million
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 2006) — 37.8 million
The Voice* (NBC, 2012) — 37.6 million
All in the Family (CBS, 1978) — 35.5 million
3rd Rock From the Sun (NBC, 1998) — 33.7 million

*Season premiere **Series premiereData via Wikipedia

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