9 Fun Facts About Super Bowl Lead-Outs: What Can Glee Expect?
If there's one thing that self-respecting football fans have in common, it's their unadulterated adulation of high school students singing Michael Jackson and Katy Perry. At least, that's what Fox hopes considering that an episode of Glee will air immediately following the Super Bowl this Sunday. Programming the Super Bowl lead-out is a tricky proposition: Obviously whatever is placed in that time slot is going to do gangbuster ratings, but considering that the current combination of NBC, CBS and Fox only have the Super Bowl once every three years, it may not be wise to waste this ratings bonanza on something like, say, the pilot for a Randy Quaid show called Davis Rules... which happened. So, what can Glee except from its monster of a lead-in? Let's look at nine fun facts about network programming that immediately follows the Super Bowl.
1.) Two Shows Aired Simultaneously After the First Super Bowl
Super Bowl I was simulcast on both CBS and NBC, so each network had their own programming after the game. CBS aired an episode of Lassie and NBC broadcast Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (which is the same thing as The Wonderful World of Disney).
2.) This Lead-Out Slot Wasn't Always So Highly Coveted
Actually, when looking at the first few shows that aired after the Super Bowl, it's almost treated with a complete ambivalence for the first eleven contests. The list of programming is littered with such high-profile fair as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am Golf Tournament, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, NBC Nightly News and, on two occasions, the networks sent it back to the affiliates for local programming.
3.) Archie Bunker Changed the Rules Forever
In 1978, during All in the Family's next to last season (it was then renamed Archie Bunker's Place), CBS actually embraced the concept of Super Bowl lead-out programming and scheduled a brand new episode of the show titled "Archie and the Super Bowl." In the episode, Archie -- who already owned his bar by now -- figured that he would have an extremely financially successful day considering the crowd he would have for the Super Bowl. (I guess? Bunker's bar was in Queens and the two teams playing were Denver and Dallas.) Well, at least two criminals thought so, too, and (spoiler alert?) stole all of Archie's money. The episode does not rank among All in the Family's finest, but, it did change Super Bowl Sunday forever.
4.) Hey, You, Watch Our New Show!
The year after All in the Family aired a Super Bowl-themed episode, NBC tried a completely different strategy: Launching a brand new show immediately after the Big Game. The first show to get this honor? Brothers and Sisters. No, not the Calista Flockhart/Sally Field vehicle; this Brothers and Sisters was a quasi-_Animal House_ rip-off starring Chris Lemmon, best known for being the spawn on Jack Lemmon. Since you've most likely never heard of this incarnation of Brothers and Sisters, it's not too big of a surprise to learn that the show was canceled after only 12 episodes.
5.) If You Have a Problem, If No One Else Can Help, and if You Can Find Them, Maybe You Can Hire... The A-Team.
After Brothers and Sisters bombed, neither NBC nor CBS were willing to try a new show in that slot for another four years (CBS ran installments of 60 Minutes in 1980 and 1982; NBC aired a rerun of CHiPs in 1981). NBC rolled the dice again in 1983 and hit it big with the first episode of The A-Team. (The pilot episode of The A-Team had aired the week before, but this is the first actual episode and the first to feature Dirk Benedict as Templeton "Faceman" Peck; Tim Dunigan played Face in the pilot.) The A-Team would last for five seasons, 98 episodes and spawn an atrocious 2010 action movie starring Bradley Cooper.
6.) The Debut Trend Continues... with Terrible Results
CBS, in their best attempt to not to be outdone by NBC the year before, debuted Airwolf, a reasonably enjoyable Blue Thunder rip-off which did reasonably well -- lasting three seasons on CBS (and another terrible season on USA). After that, it gets a little messy. ABC's first Super Bowl gave us something called MacGruder and Loud -- if only it was MacGruber and Loud -- and other disasters followed: The Last Precinct, Hard Copy, Grand Slam, Davis Rules and Extreme. Between 1985 and 1995, eight pilots were aired after the Super Bowl. Only The Wonder Years and Homicide: Life on the Street had any success beyond their initial debuts. Extreme, which aired after Super Bowl XXIX in 1995, would be the last new programming to ever air directly after a Super Bowl until just last year. (In 2005, the pilot for American Dad aired the night of the Super-Bowl after an episode of The Simpsons.)
7.) The One After the Superbowl
Taking a page from All in the Family 18 years before, NBC wisely aired an established show, Friends, in the post Super Bowl time slot in 1996. This episode also featured a plethora of guest appearances including Julia Roberts, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Brooke Shields. To date, this episode of Friends holds the record for the highest rated post-Super Bowl programming, drawing almost 53 million viewers. Last year, with the debut of the quite terrible Undercover Boss, CBS bucked the trend and aired a debut episode. Undercover Boss somehow pulled in the third best post Super Bowl rating of all-time.
8.) Super Bowl Ratings Do Not Necessarily Translate to Lead-Out Ratings
Though it seemed to work for Undercover Boss -- which followed the most watched Super Bowl in history -- the second highest rated (in total viewers) Super Bowl of all time is 2008's Super Bowl XLII, when the New York Giants shocked the New England Patriots. FOX aired an episode of House following the game that pulled in a little over 29 million viewers -- which, in the last decade, puts it right smack in the middle of viewers. The third highest was 2007's contest which was followed by The Office -- which is the worst rated post Super Bowl programming since 2003.
9.) Will Glee's Ratings on Sunday Bring it to a New Level of Cultural Significance?
Probably not. As hinted at earlier, it's an odd choice considering that there's not a ton of overlap between fans of Glee and fans of the National Football League. Networks like to think that placing a show in the post-Super Bowl time slot will automatically deliver an injection of adrenaline to a given show -- and, to be fair, in a few instances, it has worked. See: Friends and Survivor in 2001. What it doesn't do -- other than for one episode -- is really bring any added viewers to established shows. Glee will do well on Sunday, but it won't approach Friends' 53 million viewers, or even Undercover Boss' 38.6 million viewers. Expect the kids from McKinley High to settle in somewhere around 30 million. If only they had found room to cast Katy Perry and Michael Jackson.
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