If you were thinking that this year you’d avoid binge drinking during the semi-annual Patriots vs. Giants Super Bowl so you could stay up and watch the post-game television offering, don’t bother. CBS has decided to use the most powerful promotional hour of television of the year to push their new Sherlock Holmes show, Elementary. The achingly predicable procedural starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is another in a lengthy list of bland Super Bowl lead-out programs offered up by the networks to bring a wider audience to their tepid programs, including — of late — The Voice, Smash, Glee, Undercover Boss, and Criminal Minds. Guh.
Remember when networks used to air daring shows that viewers might not otherwise tune into, or launch entirely new shows in the post-Super Bowl? Here are 5 of the BEST uses of that spot in recent memory:
5. The Simpsons/American Dad — I don’t actually like American Dad, but I appreciate that Fox at least used the slot here in 2005 to launch a new show, one which is still on the air seven years later. It’s the last time it has been used to launch a show, and the first time since the crushing failure of Extreme, a show that premiered in the post-Super Bowl slot in 1995 that starred Julie Bowen, James Brolin, Danny Masterson, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. That was didn’t make it to a second season, so the networks have been far more conservative since then in that they choose to premiere.
4. Homicide: Life on the Street — In 1993, NBC launched one of the greatest police procedurals to date, David Simon’s precursor to The Wire starring — among others — Richard Belzer, Giancarlo Esposito, and Andre Braugher. Thanks to that monster launch, the show managed to stay on the air for seven years, though it was never a particularly high rated show.
3. Alias — Sure it was the lowest rated post-Super Bowl program in the history of post-Super Bowl programs up to that point, but at least it brought a lot of new eyes to a show killing it in the height of its run (mid-way through season two) before the Rimaldi ruined the show. It was also the episode where Francie got killed.
2. The Wonder Years — In 1999, ABC launched The Wonder Years, still one of my favorite all-time sitcoms, one of the most thoughtful and poignant coming-of-age shows of a generation. Wanna get a little teary on an election day morning? Watch the last minutes of the Wonders Years finale.
1. The X-Files — This is precisely what the Super Bowl spot should be used for: To introduce a well-established, but edgy show to a new universe of people that might not otherwise check it out, and Chris Carter exploited the opportunity appropriately with the “Leonard Betts” episode, written by Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan.