Queen Latifah is getting the royal treatment for the premiere of her CBS series, "The Equalizer": the time slot right after the Super Bowl, TV's pe
Queen Latifah is getting the royal treatment for the premiere of her CBS series, “The Equalizer”: the time slot right after the Super Bowl, TV’s perennially top-rated program.
The reboot of the 1980s CBS retribution drama, which also inspired a 2014 Denzel Washington film and a sequel, is the latest new series to land that coveted time slot, which also has featured other new dramas, established hits and reality shows over the years.
However, that spot is no guarantee of success for a newcomer. For every “The Wonder Years” (1988) or “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1993), there’s “MacGruder and Loud” (1985), one of Aaron Spelling’s few failures, or the 2019 CBS competition dud “The World’s Best”, which clearly wasn’t. The cushy slot gets a show sampled, but sometimes that just means more people reject it faster.
Like the big game itself, which took a few years to become a ratings bonanza and unofficial national holiday, the post-game slot started modestly, with episodes of family show “Lassie,” “G.E. College Bowl” and even golf tournaments getting the not-yet-marquee spot in the early years.
The Super Bowl LV matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is scheduled to kick off Sunday (6:40 EST/3:40 PST), with “The Equalizer” likely to begin sometime after 10 EST/7 EST.
In a sporting spirit, here are the 10 most noteworthy post-Super Bowl, in chronological order:
All in the Family (CBS; 1978)
Norman Lear’s politically charged, TV-altering comedy was well past its ratings peak, although still a hit, when the “Super Bowl Sunday” episode aired. The greater significance is that the episode, in which Archie’s bar is robbed on the day of the big game, marks the first time a network scheduled a marquee show after the Super Bowl, which moved to an evening slot that year.
The Wonder Years (ABC; 1988)
The wistful coming-of-age 1960s comedy is one of the big series-premiere successes, earning critical acclaim and solid ratings over six seasons after its pilot episode attracted almost 29 million viewers. The story of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage, now a busy TV director), who starts the series at 12, and his suburban family influenced many future comedies with its youthful protagonist (“Freaks and Geeks,” “My So-Called Life”); that character as older, wiser narrator (“How I Met Your Mother”); and period setting.
60 Minutes (CBS; 1992)
This shortened episode of the groundbreaking newsmagazine, which featured Steve Kroft interviewing Bill and Hillary Clinton, is the most significant Super Bowl companion. It’s memorable for many things: Bill Clinton denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers (he later admitted under oath to a sexual encounter), a scandal that threatened his ultimately successful presidential campaign; Hillary Clinton uttered the much-replayed, much-criticized “I’m not sittin’ here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette”; and the eventual first couple barely escaped severe injury when a light crashed down mid-interview.
Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC; 1993)
Five years after “The Wonder Years” premiere, another TV classic got its start after the Super Bowl. This gritty drama about Baltimore police detectives was based on a book by then-newspaper reporter David Simon (“The Wire”). Like every post-Super Bowl premiere, the audience of 28 million viewers, which met the great pairing of Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) and Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor), proved a ratings high for the show, which had a brilliant seven-season run without ever becoming a hit.
Friends (NBC; 1996)
After networks spent years trying to use the Super Bowl’s huge audience to launch new (but quickly forgotten) shows like “Grand Slam,” “Davis Rules” and “Extreme,” a one-hour “Friends” episode midway through the smash hit comedy’s second season satisfied beer-soaked fans with a familiar presence. In “The One After the Super Bowl,” Ross’ monkey Marcel wins a movie role, so Ross (David Schwimmer) tries to get cast in the same movie as a ploy to reunite with him; Monica and Rachel fight over Jean-Claude Van Damme; and Julia Roberts provides an A-list guest-star turn. The episode averaged nearly 53 million viewers, a series high that also marked the most-watched show to ever follow the big game.
Survivor: The Australian Outback (CBS; 2001)
This extreme test of physical skill and psychological intrigue set in exotic exile led the early reality TV wave and became a ratings tsunami when it premiered in 2000. Interest remained sky-high for the Season 2 premiere, which attracted 45 million viewers, second in series history and a smashing opening for the most-watched of the show’s 40 seasons.
Alias (ABC; 2003)
The combination of high-quality spy drama, talented writer-producer J.J. Abrams and appealing star Jennifer Garner disappointingly added up to the least-watched show (17 million viewers) since high-profile programming became a post-game staple four decades ago. The late starting time (after 11 p.m. EST) didn’t help.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC; 2006)
“Grey’s Anatomy” was just revving up for its amazing run – 17 seasons and counting – when this Season 2 episode, the first of a two-parter, grabbed 38 million viewers with a “Grey’s”-worthy emergency: a patient with unexploded ammunition in his chest. Besides the plot, which includes the sad demise of a bomb squad officer played by Kyle Chandler, the episode also features a steamy shower scene featuring Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Cristina (Sandra Oh), Izzie (Katherine Heigl) and George (T.R. Knight) that is ultimately revealed to be George’s dream. It’s a far cry, tonally, from Meredith’s recent COVID-fired dreams, one of which featured a philosophical reunion with George, who died in Season 5.
New Girl (Fox; 2014)
The episode title says it all: “Prince.” The music superstar blew up a transformer with the guest-star wattage he brought to the entertaining Zooey Deschanel comedy. Prince, said to be a fan of the show, not only appeared in the episode, which featured friends Jess (Deschanel) and Cece (Hannah Simone) getting invited to a party at his house, but he performed a new song, “Fallinlove2nite,” with Deschanel. Sadly, Prince died just two years later.
This Is Us (NBC; 2018)
This pivotal Season 2 episode, appropriately titled “Super Bowl Sunday,” answered the time-jumping, critically praised family drama’s most pressing question: How did Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) die? The patriarch’s demise occurred in the aftermath of a late-night house fire after the football-loving family had just watched the 1998 Super Bowl. Jack survived the fire, heroically helping to save his family, before a surprise heart attack triggered by smoke inhalation later took his life. “This Is Us,” already a ratings hit, drew 27 million viewers, the most for a scripted post-Super Bowl series since “House” in 2008.