While over the years the Super Bowl has become a ratings goldmine, the prime television real estate after the big game has proven to be just as valuable. Networks have a variety of options for the time slot and usually choose to debut a new series or give an established show the coveted "Super Bowl bump." This year CBS has the big game and elected to give rookie series Elementary the post-game slot in hopes of helping continue its strong momentum. Here's a look back at 10 of the shows that capitalized on the opportunity and used the "bump" to increase their audience.
Friends - "The One After The Super Bowl" (1996)
The post-Super Bowl edition of Friends remains the most watched post-game episode of all time. With over 55 million people tuning in, the Central Perk gang encountered a number of guest stars including Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts, Chris Isaak and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Not that the plot even mattered, but it revolved around Ross (David Schwimmer) learning his one-time pet monkey Marcel was now a big-time movie star and embarking on a quest to track him down. Granted it may not have been one of the show's best episodes, but it just goes to show how beloved this TV classic really was in just its second season.
Survivor Australia/All-Stars - "Stranded"/ “They’re Back" (2001/2004)
You can't have the post-Super Bowl conversation without mentioning the granddaddy of all reality competition shows: Survivor. Following its still-buzzed-about-launch during the summer of 2000; the CBS staple earned the coveted post-game honors twice, once in 2001 for their Australia season and once in 2004 for its first all-star seasons. Both times the show lived up its hype and reminded people why "outwit, outplay, outlast," will forever be a part of pop culture vernacular.
The Simpsons -"Sunday Cruddy Sunday"/ "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass" (1999/2005)
FOX has long been known for its Sunday slate of animation domination so it was fitting a number of its big hits were given the slot following the big game. Twice, that honor has gone to TV's longest-running animated series, The Simpsons. First in 1999 and then again in 2005, the inhabitants of Springfield, USA found themselves in the national spotlight with Super Bowl themed episodes that have each now become classics. Yet FOX also had an ulterior motive for giving the slot to The Simpsons as both times they used Homer and company to launch their next big animated hit and both times it worked.
Grey's Anatomy - "It’s the End of the World (Part 1)" (2006)
Let's just quickly recap all the traumas that have befallen the residents of Seattle Grace Hospital over the years: a shooting rampage, a plane crash, numerous scandals and countless numbers of friends and family suddenly passing away. Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah, a patient presenting with a LIVE EXPLOSIVE DEVICE inside of them! When ABC gave Grey's Anatomy the slot in 2006, it was just the show's second season on the air and fans had no idea the amount of drama they were in store for over the series' run. Aside from the "code black" plot, the episode also featured guest appearances by Christina Ricci and Kyle Chandler, whose exit from the series remains one of its most shocking; and that says a lot!
The Wonder Years - "Pilot" (1988)
In 1988, ABC chose to debut the family series The Wonder Years following the Super Bowl and nearly 30 million viewers tuned in to watch. Starring Fred Savage, the coming-of-age dramedy would go on to run for six seasons and become ingrained in pop culture as the show of a generation. With its iconic home movie style opening set to Joe Cocker's timeless version of "A Little Help From My Friends," the program quickly showed it was different than anything else on TV and audiences embraced the change of pace.
Undercover Boss - "Pilot/Waste Management" (2010)
In 2010 everybody figured CBS would either give the post-game slot to ratings winner The Big Bang Theory or (for the third time) Survivor, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary season. Instead CBS went in a completely different direction and gave the bump to Undercover Boss, which drew some sarcastic squawking from the media. Yet any doubts were quickly erased when the series scored its own touchdown and netted over 38 million viewers and launched a new reality franchise for the network. Incidentally, the previous two post-Super Bowl episodes to break the 30 million mark were (of course) both Survivor.
Given that the post-Super Bowl slot is generally an hour in length, FOX realized in 1999 (and again in 2005) it had a great opportunity on its hands to literally have the best of both worlds by paring a new series with an established one. In fact both times they used this approach it was Seth MacFarlane that became the main beneficiary of the bump. First FOX introduced viewers to MacFarlane's Family Guy and then a few years later premiered his hit American Dad. While Family Guy's rocky start and initial constant battle for survival is well documented, both it and American Dad have managed to come out on top and a large chunk of that early success is because of its initial Super Bowl exposure.
Alias - "Phase One" (2003)
When Alias was awarded the post-Super Bowl slot in 2003, executives promised a big event, but played coy on just how big. Instead all of the show's pre-coverage was focused on its star Jennifer Garner modeling lingerie, which proved to be just one of the episodes many high points. Yet in a move generally reserved for season finales of long-running shows, Alias essentially hit the reset button and blew up their entire mythology just midway into their sophomore run. It was a gutsy and surprising twist that nobody saw coming and many believe helped give the show new life.
Glee - "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" (2011)
Normally when people think of the Super Bowl, they think of football, food and cheerleaders, but in 2011, FOX had a different thought in mind by giving Glee the coveted post-slot. Yes Glee, a dramedy/musical series about a Lima, Ohio show choir was selected to follow the big game and the funny part is that the idea worked! Nearly 27 million people tuned in to the episode, which may not make it one of the top overall performing post-game series; it was still very impressive for a program that nobody in a million years thought would get the nod.
The Voice -"(Season 2) The Blind Auditions, Part 1" (2012)
After CBS successfully went to the reality well in 2010 for its post-Super Bowl selection, NBC realized they also had a strong card to play following the big game. NBC struck gold in 2011 with the debut of The Voice and realized they needed a big way to kick off its sophomore run, so they gave it the Super Bowl bump and it hit all the high notes. The Voice's second season bowed to 37 million viewers (just 1 million shy of Undercover Boss' debut two years prior) and would continue on to have a successful second season.