The Super Bowl is the biggest television event of the year. The sheer volume of viewers tuning in for the big game -- 111 million watched the Giants beat the Patriots last year -- ensures the show that plays post-Super Bowl enormous ratings potential. And in recent years, the networks have seized on the timeslot as a way to support their young hit shows.
Last year NBC took the opportunity to unofficially declare that "The Voice" was coming for "American Idol" and "The X Factor." The year before, Fox aired its "Thriller" and zombie-themed episode of "Glee," which turned out to be a ratings disappointment by post-Super Bowl standards.
Different networks have used various post-Super Bowl strategies over the years: NBC was rewarded for going the comedy route in 1996 when its post-Super Bowl "Friends" episode netted over 50 million viewers; CBS has had ratings success with reality shows, particularly "Survivor" and "Undercover Boss"; and ABC scored surprisingly high numbers with an outrageous episode of "Grey's Anatomy" in 2006.
Back in the days before premium cable, the networks used the post-Super Bowl timeslot to premiere shows with high potential. Both "The Wonder Years" and "The A-Team" debuted after Super Bowls in the '80s.
This year, CBS decided to go with its new procedural crime drama "Elementary," a choice that doesn't fit the traditional mold. The network might have been able to generate "Friends"-like ratings with "The Big Bang Theory" or a repeat performance with "Survivor: Caramoan" (which premieres on Feb. 13), but decided to go with a rookie show that's been averaging close to 10 million viewers per episode. To be fair, it is the highest-rated new drama of the 2012-2013 TV season.
Check out the slideshow below for a look back at how nine notable post-Super Bowl shows did in the ratings and whether they were able to sustain their post-Super Bowl ratings momentum throughout their seasons.
How do you think "Elementary" will do Sunday night? Share your thoughts in the comments.
"Elementary" will air at approximately 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 3 after Super Bowl XLVII on CBS.
"The A-Team," NBC, 1983
NBC premiered the first episode of "The A-Team" on January 30, 1983 immediately after Super Bowl XVII. The action-adventure show resonated in the male demographic, <a href="http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2013/01/30/the-program-after-the-super-bowl-how-will-elementary-do-pollratings-history/167082/">scoring 21 million viewers</a> and 26 percent of the total TV audience. It <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_A-Team#Reception">continued to pull in 17-20 percent</a> of the total TV audience in its first three seasons, an impressive feat that was only possible in the days before TV fragmentation, and many more channels, gave viewers infinitely more options.
"The Wonder Years," ABC, 1988
"The Wonder Years" pilot episode aired on ABC in 1988, after Super Bowl XXIII. The heartfelt family dramacomedy -- whose opening scene featured Kevin and his friends playing street football -- <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonder_Years#Ratings">scored 28.9 million viewers</a> that night, and won a Best Comedy Emmy only six episodes later.
"Friends," NBC, 1996
Just as "Friends" was hitting its stride in its second season in 1996, the now-classic sitcom got a huge ratings boost when NBC decided to air the comedy after Super Bowl XXX. The episode, creatively titled "The One After The Super Bowl," brought in <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_22466985/super-bowl-2013-top-5-post-super-bowl">52.9 million viewers</a>, a massive ratings number that still stands as the highest-rated post-Super Bowl show ever. "Friends" would not come close to matching those ratings until its series finale, which boasted 52.2 million viewers. <a href="http://newmusicandmore.tripod.com/friendsratings.html">"Friends" averaged 20 million viewers</a> per episode that season, making it highest rated of its 10 seasons.
"Survivor: The Australian Outback"
CBS capitalized on the early days of the reality TV phenomenon and earned gigantic post-Super Bowl ratings in 2001 when the network premiered "Survivor: The Australian Outback" right after Super Bowl XXXV. The debut episode of "Survivor's" second season <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_22466985/super-bowl-2013-top-5-post-super-bowl">scored a whopping 45 million viewers</a>. "Survivor" rode that momentum and became the top-rated show of the year, averaging 30 million viewers per episode throughout the season.
"Alias," ABC, 2003
"Alias" holds the ignoble distinction of being the lowest-rated post-Super Bowl show of the modern era. <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,417964,00.html">Only 17 million viewers stuck around</a> ABC to watch the J.J. Abrams spy drama starring Jennifer Garner after Super Bowl XXVII in 2003. Although the show is now remembered as a cult hit, it never was a ratings smash. Still, the post-Super Bowl bump lifted Season 2 above its <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alias_(TV_series)#U.S._television_ratings">average of 9 million viewers per episode</a>.
"Grey's Anatomy," ABC, 2006
"Grey's Anatomy" stepped up to the post-Super Bowl XL challenge in 2006 with a highly memorable episode titled "It's The End Of The World," built around a bizarre premise. When a patient showed up at Seattle Grace with a bomb in his belly, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) was forced to hold her hand in his chest to keep it from exploding. The heavily-hyped episode was <a href="http://popwatch.ew.com/2006/02/07/greys_anatomys_/">saw 38.1 million viewers</a> -- the highest-rated "Grey's" episode in history -- during <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey%27s_Anatomy#U.S._television_ratings">the show's second season, which averaged 19.4 million viewers per episode</a>.
"Undercover Boss," CBS, 2010
CBS last aired the Super Bowl in 2010, and the network doubled-down on their "Survivor" strategy by debuting a reality show with a concept that was a novelty at the time: "Undercover Boss." An <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undercover_Boss_(U.S._TV_series)#Reception">impressive 38 million viewers</a> tuned in to the Waste Management episode, and propelled the show to <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undercover_Boss#U.S._television_ratings">very strong ratings in its first season, averaging 17 million viewers per episode</a>.
"Glee," Fox, 2011
In 2011, "Glee" second season was a breakout hit for Fox, but the high school singing dramedy proved not to be the best demographic fit with the post-Super Bowl audience. "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" episode, which featured a "Thriller" dance number, zombie costumes and a Katie Couric cameo, <a href="http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/02/07/glee-super-bowl-ratings-are-in/">only scored 26.8 million viewers</a> during a season in which it <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glee_(TV_series)#Ratings">averaged 10 million viewers per episode</a>.
"The Voice," NBC, 2012
NBC used the post-Super Bowl XLVI spot to seize the upper hand in the battle of reality singing competitions. The Season 2 premiere of <a href="http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/the-voice-follows-the-super-bowl-to-rare-ratings-heights/">"The Voice" scored 37.6 million viewers</a>, getting the new season -- <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voice_(U.S._TV_series)#Ratings">which would average 15 million viewers per episode</a> -- off to a strong ratings start that made it far more relevant than "American Idol" or "The X Factor."
"Elementary," CBS, 2013
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/04/elementary-ratings-post-super-bowl_n_2617282.html">"Elementary" attracted 20.8 million</a> viewers for CBS, the lowest-rated Super Bowl lead-out show since "Alias." The low number can be partially explained by the 34-minute mid-game blackout that pushed back the start of "Elementary" into the 11 p.m. ET hour.
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