Super Bowl: 23 Notable TV Shows That Landed the Coveted Post-Game Slot

1:11 PM 2/2/2017

by Kara Haar and Deirdre Durkan

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at other shows that have aired in the coveted spot, from the biggest ('Friends' holds the record) to the most newsworthy (Bill and Hillary Clinton's '60 Minutes' interview).

From left: 'Friends,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'The X-Files' and 'The Simpsons'
From left: 'Friends,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'The X-Files' and 'The Simpsons'

With the Super Bowl drawing 111 million-plus viewers each year, the post-game slot has become the best place to launch a new show — or give a returning show some major exposure.

Since the first Super Bowl in 1967, which aired on both CBS and NBC, networks have scheduled a variety of programming after the big game. In that first year, CBS aired Lassie and NBC aired Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. (Lassie aired again after the 1968 and 1970 Super Bowls, while The Wonderful World of Disney returned to the slot in 1973.)

In many cases, those shows that drew the lead-out spot were already hits (CBS' Survivor, NBC's Friends, Fox's The Simpsons), while yet others came and went without successfully capitalizing on their high-profile slot (ABC's Extreme, anyone?). In some years, networks used the spot to give some lower-profile shows some much-needed exposure (like Alias in 2003).

Some of these episodes also have featured big guest stars (Prince! Katie Couric! Tom Brady!) as they look to pull in even new viewers. Friends, for example, featured appearances by Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak, Julia Roberts, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Fred Willard and Dan Castellaneta in 1996. (Incidentally, that episode holds the record for most-watched Super Bowl lead-out, drawing 52.9 million viewers.)

In 2017, Fox debuted its reboot 24: Legacy, starring Corey Hawkins (the show was canceled in June of that year), and last year, NBC aired an episode of This Is Us (that series, which is in its third season, won the SAG Award for best ensemble in a drama in January 2019), but it's not only scripted (and reality) series that have gotten that coveted perch. In 2016, CBS aired special episodes of its late-night talkers — The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show With James Corden — afterward, while 60 Minutes also scored the slot four times over the years, including the most recent, in 1992, featuring an interview with Bill and Hillary Clinton addressing the Gennifer Flowers affair. One year, another sporting even after aired afterward: the Phoenix Open golf tournament, which was broadcast after the 1976 game on CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at just some of the shows that have debuted immediately after the Super Bowl over the years.

Updated Monday, Jan. 28, 8:45 a.m.: Added The World's Best.

  • The World's Best

    Courtesy of CBS

    CBS will premiere its new competition reality series The World's Best immediately after Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019.

    The World's Best was announced in October with a 10-episode order. The talent competition will feature The Late Late Show host James Corden, along with judges RuPaul Charles, Faith Hill and Drew Barrymore.

    The series will see people competing in multiple fields to impress U.S. judges and a panel of 50 experts from around the globe in order to make it further in the competition.

    "It’s only fitting that The World’s Best perform in front of the world’s best," CBS senior vp alternative programming Sharon Vuong previously said of the show. "James, Drew, Faith and RuPaul are all amazing talents who have excelled in their respective fields on a global scale. We can’t wait for them to bring their distinct voices to a show that’s unlike any other."

  • This Is Us

    NBC heart-twisting highly-anticipated drama, This is Us, premiered after the 2018 game with the answer to viewers' questions about how Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) died (spoiler alert: it was a fire started by a faulty slow-cooker).

    Writer and producer Dan Fogelman promiseed to make the family drama accessible for a post-Super Bowl audience.

    “I'm incredibly excited about the episode. I've just completed it, all the final touches. It's very special, and one of if not our best. How people want to watch television after the Super Bowl, I don't know, but I suspect the way it starts, the opening six minutes of it, it's going to be hard for people to turn it off,” Fogelman told The Hollywood Reporter.

    It was revealed the previous week that, Jack, a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, died on Super Bowl Sunday. 

    Ultimately, the show averaged 30.9 million viewers with live-plus-1-day returns in its post-Super Bowl berth.

  • 24: Legacy

    2017 Super Bowl LI (2017)

    Guy D'Alema/FOX

    In 2017, Fox premiered its reboot 24: Legacy following the Super Bowl. While the original series starred Kiefer Sutherland, the new version featured Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, The Walking Dead) in the lead role. Hawkins played Eric Carter, a former Army Ranger who begins to suspect that his team members  are being targeted carrying out a mission to assassinate terrorist leader Sheik Ibrahim Bin-Khalid six months earlier. T

    he show "marks an on-brand return for a franchise Fox has refused to let lie fallow long enough for any real nostalgic yearning to set in," THR TV critic Daniel Fienberg wrote in his review. "Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer is gone, but even in his absence 24: Legacy sports 24 aesthetics, 24 urgency, 24 illogical Internal logic and that reliable 24 tendency to balance five or six plotlines at once — even when two or three of them are downright awful. For better and for worse, 24: Legacy sure feels like 24."

    Ultimately, the show didn't connect with viewers, and it was canceled in June of that same year.

  • The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

    Super Bowl 50 (2016)

    Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

    On Feb. 7, 2016, CBS aired The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, marking the late-night talk show's first-ever live broadcast. His guests included Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Will Ferrell, Keegan Michael Key, and Jordan Peele. Following that, The Late Late Show With James Corden aired with guests Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine and a special "Carpool Karaoke" with Elton John. Colbert drew 20.6 million viewers, while 1.7 million tuned in to see Corden's show.

  • The Blacklist

    Super Bowl XLIX (2015)


    NBC aired the first of a two-part episode of The Blacklist on Feb. 1, 2015. The second season and ninth episode, titled "Luther Braxton: Part One," drew 25.7 million viewers. The show is in its fourth season, with NBC prepping a spinoff titled The Blacklist: Redemption. A special episode of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon — featuring Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Ariana Grande and the Super Bowl champions New England Patriots as guests — aired afterward, pulling in 9.8 million viewers.

  • New Girl

    Super Bowl XLVIII (2014)

    Courtesy of FOX

    On Feb. 2, 2014, Fox aired a special episode of New Girl. The fourteenth episode in the third season, it featured Prince along with Major League Baseball player Clayton Kershaw and supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio, Ana Beatriz Barros and Lais Ribeiro (26.3 million viewers tuned in). An episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine followed (15.1 million). New Girl is currently airing its sixth season; Brooklyn Nine-Nine is in its fourth.

  • Elementary

    Super Bowl XLVII (2013)


    On Feb. 3, 2013, CBS aired an episode of Elementary, its modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. The series is based on a detective working in New York City as a modern day take on Sherlock Holmes. The episode average 20.8 million viewers. Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson immediately followed (4.43 million). Elementary is currently airing its fifth season; Ferguson ended his show in 2014, with James Corden taking over his time slot.

  • The Voice

    Super Bowl XLVI (2012)

    On Feb. 5, 2013, NBC premiered the second season of The Voice after the Super Bowl with judges Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton. The episode average 37.6 million viewers, followed by a special edition of The Late Night With Jimmy Fallon with guests Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and musical performer Flo Rida (4.2 million). In October, NBC renewed the show for its 12th and 13th seasons, the former of which is set to premiere Feb. 27.

  • Glee

    Super Bowl XLV (2011)

    Adam Rose/FOX

    An episode of Glee aired Feb. 6, 2011, after the Super Bowl on Fox. The 11th episode of the second season was titled "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle." With more than 500 extras, a guest appearance from Katie Couric and multiple songs covered, including Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the episode was reportedly Glee's most expensive to produce. It drew 26.8 million viewers. The show went on to end its run in 2015.

  • Undercover Boss

    Super Bowl XLIV (2010)

    Courtesy of YouTube/CBS

    On Feb. 7. 2010, CBS debuts its unscripted series Undercover Boss, focusing on Waste Management Inc., whose then-president and COO Lawrence O'Donnell III disguised himself to work with his employees to see how he could improve his company. He cleaned porta-potties and sorted waste and garbage, resulting in getting himself fired. The episode drew 38.7 million viewers, making it the biggest audience ever for a post-Super Bowl series debut and the third most-watched program to follow the game, after Friends in 1996 and Survivor: The Australian Outback in 2001. Undercover Boss just had its eighth-season premiere.

  • The Office

    Super Bowl XLIII (2009)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    NBC aired an hourlong episode of The Office on Feb. 1, 2009, titled "Stress Relief," in which Michael Scott (Steve Carell) asks his co-workers to host a roast for him to ease the amount of stress in the office. The fifth-season episode was the show's most viewed episode with 22.9 million viewers. Carell left the show at the end of season seven, and it went on to air two more seasons, though 2013, with Carell making a surprise appearance in the finale.

  • House

    Super Bowl XLIII (2008)


    On Feb. 3. 2008, Fox aired an episode of House, which was in its fourth season, amid the writers' strike. A special episode had been planned the post-Super Bowl spot, but once TV production was halted due to the strike, Fox execs decided to save an already finished episode to air then. Through video, House (Hugh Laurie) had to diagnose an ill psychiatrist who collapsed at the South Pole. The episode was the highest ranking for the entire series, with 29 million viewers watching. House went on to air through 2012.

  • Grey’s Anatomy

    Super Bowl XL (2006)


    ABC featured the first of a two-part episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Feb. 5, 2006, titled "It's the End of the World." The second-season saw a patient entering the hospital with unexploded ammunition inside him, leaving Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) trapped with her hand inside the patient to prevent the bomb from exploding. This was the most-watched episode of the series, with 37.8 million viewers, and earned Shonda Rhimes an Emmy nom for writing. It's currently in its 13th season.

  • The Simpsons

    Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)


    On Feb. 6, 2005, Fox debuted an episode of The Simpsons, then in its 16th season, called "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass." In the episode, the Comic Book Guy’s real name is revealed as Jeff Albertson. Guest appearances on the episode, which averaged 23 million viewers, included Tom Brady, LeBron James, Michelle Kwan, Yao Ming and Warren Sapp. Following The Simpsons, the pilot of American Dad! drew 15.1 million viewers. Debuting in 1989, The Simpsons holds the record for longest-running scripted primetime series; it also sparked a feature film and has been renewed through season 30 (2018-19). American Dad! is in its 14th season.

  • Survivor

    Super Bowl XXXV (2001) and Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)


    Survivor: The Australian Outback — the reality competition's second season — premiered on CBS after the 2001 Super Bowl on Jan. 28, 2001. With  45.4 million viewers, this episode was the second-most-watched show to air after the Super Bowl (after Friends in 1996). Three years later, CBS premiered the first episode of Survivor: All Stars (pictured above) on Feb. 1, 2004. The season featured fan favorites from previous editions — including Amber Brkich, Rob Mariano, Colby Donaldson and eventual winner Rupert Boneham — returning to compete for $1 million. That episode drew 33.5 viewers. The long-running show returns this spring with its 34th season.


  • Alias

    Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    On Jan. 26, 2003, ABC debuted an episode of Alias called "Phase One," which drew 17.4 million viewers. That reportedly marked the lowest rating for a post-Super Bowl episode in 28 years, which was attributed to the fact that, prior to the episode, ABC aired a 40-minute post-game special featuring a concert by Bon Jovi. Alias ended its run in 2006. Following Alias, a special installment of Jimmy Kimmel Live aired.


  • Malcolm in the Middle

    Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)


    On Feb. 3, 2002, Fox showed a two-part episode of Malcolm in the Middle, in which Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) and his family go on a company picnic. Combined, the hour averaged 21.4 million viewers. The series, also starring future Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, aired for a total of seven seasons, ending its run in 2006.

  • The Practice

    Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)


    The Jan. 20, 2000, episode of The Practice average 23.8 million viewers for ABC, making it the series most-watched episode ever. The first of a two-part episode in season four, it found Lindsay (Kelli Williams) taking the firm to Los Angeles to defend an acquaintance on trial for murdering his online girlfriend. The Practice aired until 2004 and spurred a spinoff, Boston Legal, which aired for five seasons starting in 2004.

  • Family Guy

    Super Bowl XXXIII (1999)

    Fox/Getty Images

    Fox premiered Family Guy following the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, 1999 (22 million viewers), followed by an episode of The Simpsons. “Death Has a Shadow” was the name of the pilot episode. The episode created controversy with his surprisingly mature content. The show was canceled in 2002 before success in syndication and on DVD sparked Fox to revive it in 2005.

  • 3rd Rock From the Sun

    Super Bowl XXXII (1998)


    On Jan. 25, 1999, NBC aired a two-part episode of the comedy series, which found the men suddenly surrounded by beautiful women, leaving Sally (Kristen Johnson) suspicious of why these women are attracted to the men of Rutherford. The show, which ended its run in 2001, drew 33.7 million viewers. 3rd Rock also starred John Lithgow, French Stewart and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

  • The X-Files

    Super Bowl XXXI (1997)


    Fox aired an episode of The X-Files on Jan. 26, 1997. Titled "Leonard Betts," the 12th episode of the fourth season was written by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz and featured a guest appearance by Paul McCrane as Leonard Betts. The episode found Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigating a mutant that eats cancer. This was the most-watched episode of the series with 29 million viewers. It went on to air through May 2002 — and sparked two feature films — before being revived with six new episodes airing last year on Fox.

  • Friends

    Super Bowl XXX (1996)


    For Friends' second season, NBC aired a two-parter of the comedy on Jan. 28, 1996, called “The One After the Super Bowl: Part 1 & 2." Part 1 was the most-watched episode in the show’s history with 52.9 million viewers — and also still holds the record for the largest amount of viewers for a post-Super Bowl episode. Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak, Julia Roberts, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Fred Willard and Dan Castellaneta guest starred. Friends aired on NBC until 2004.

  • 1992 Super Bowl XXVI: 60 Minutes


    On Jan. 26. 1992, CBS aired a special episode of 60 Minutes in which then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers, with Hillary Clinton sitting beside him. More than 50 million people tuned in to the interview, which famously featured this quote from Hillary about the couple's marriage: "You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck — don't vote for him." Incidentally, 60 Minutes also followed the Super Bowl in 1972, 1980 and 1982, making it the show to be featured the most after a game. It still airs on Sunday nights on CBS.



  • Other Lead-outs

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Other popular lead-outs have included The Wonder Years (pictured above) in 1988 by ABC, The Hard Copy in 1987 by CBS, The A-Team in 1983 by NBC, CHiPs in 1981 by NBC, All in the Family in 1978 by CBS and the Phoenix Open golf tournament in 1976 by CBS. The first ever Super Bowl was shown on two networks on Jan. 15, 1967. CBS aired Lassie afterward, and NBC showed Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.