Time and time again, the Super Bowl attracts the biggest television audience of the year, reaching as many as 114 million people in 2015. With such an audience, retaining even a fraction of the audience would boost the next show. Thus, the Super Bowl exit slot has become quite the commodity guaranteeing massive Nielsen odds.
The Big Four Networks used the first slot to increase viewership of their latest hits like The Office, New Girl, Glee, and It’s us while classics like The good years, Homicide: life on the street, and family guy launched their races by creating their pilot episode. This year, NBC is breaking tradition by using coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as the lead for Super Bowl LVI.
ten 3rd Rock From the Sun (1998) – 33.7 million
Spirits behind This show from the 70s, and Wayne’s WorldBonnie and Terry Turner, 3rd Rock of the Sun follows a group of aliens on a mission to learn more about Earth. To conduct their research, the aliens disguise themselves as a human family called the Solomons. The show’s cast includes John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jane Curtin.
In the two-part episode “36! 24! 36! Dick!”, Rutherford, Ohio is inundated with a sudden influx of beautiful women who set their sights on all the men in town. It turns out that these mysterious women are actually invaders from the planet Venus on a mission to steal all of Earth’s possessions. It’s up to the Solomons to stop the Venusians before they unleash their mind-blowing beer commercial on the Super Bowl audience.
9 All in the Family (1978) – 35.5 million
Norman Lear’s groundbreaking ’70s sitcom broke down barriers by blending jaw-dropping comedy with groundbreaking explorations of hot cultural topics. All in the family focuses on the lives of the Bunkers: cult patriarch Archie, his beloved wife Edith, their free-spirited daughter Gloria, and her hippie husband Mike. In nine seasons, the show has collected 22 Emmys and produced iconic spin-offs in Maud and The Jeffersons.
In 1978, CBS decided to use the Bunkers as the first television family to follow the Super Bowl. In “Archie and the Super Bowl”, Archie prepares for a booming business day on Super Bowl Sunday. His bar, Archie’s Place, is filled with men excited to watch the big game. All the celebrations are cut short when a pair of crooks rob the bar at gunpoint.
8 The Voice (2012) – 37.6 million
The voice is NBC’s game to take over some of the american idol Magic. This American adaptation of a Dutch reality series follows four coaches tasked with discovering the next big voice. The show is best known for its “blind auditions” where coaches turn their backs on singing artists and turn around if they’re interested in recruiting the talent.
In the second season premiere, coaches Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton began building their new teams. Standout performances include four-chair laps for Jesse Campbell’s cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” and Tony Lucca’s rendition of Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble.” Lucca would finish this season in third place. The episode also saw future finalist Juliet Simms audition with The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”.
7 Grey’s Anatomy (2006) – 37.8 million
Grey’s Anatomy follows the daily trials and tribulations of Meredith Grey, intern and later surgeon at Gray Sloan Memorial Hospital. Currently in its 18th season, the show is ABC’s longest-running scripted primetime show. Its huge success launched the careers of Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Patrick Dempsey and designer Shonda Rhimes.
In “It’s the End of the World”, Meredith faces one of her craziest days at Gray Sloan Memorial Hospital when a patient arrives with a chest injury. Hannah, a new paramedic, says the only way to stop the bleeding was to put her hand in the wound. The situation escalates when it is discovered that the patient has a bomb in his chest and Hannah’s hand is the only thing stopping the bomb from going off.
6 Undercover Boss (2010) – 38.7 million
undercover boss holds the distinction of being the first reality show to make its series debut right after the Super Bowl. This American adaptation follows the format of its British predecessor, a senior employee learns more about the lives of his frontline employees by dressing up as a new intern and getting to know the job and the people.
The first episode follows Lawrence O’Donnell, the president and COO of Waste Management, America’s largest waste company. Over the course of a week, Lawrence’s jobs include picking up trash from a landfill, sorting recyclables at a recycling facility, and cleaning portable toilets at a carnival under the guise of “Randy.” Lawrence is shocked to learn of his employees’ rigorous routines, their honest thoughts on the company, and is fired from a job for the first time.
5 The Last Quarter (1986) – 39.7 million
From the duo that created 80s hits like The A-team and hunter, The last quarter is Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo’s only attempt at a sitcom. The show follows the misadventures of a neighborhood LAPD cop with Batmanis Adam West as Captain Rick Wright. The cast also includes ghost hunters’is Ernie Hudson.
A distant relative of Brooklyn nine-nineThe show’s “Pilot” follows a group of police academy misfits forced to work together when they’re all assigned to the 56th Precinct in Los Angeles. Many elements of the pilot episode have aged ungracefully, including the treatment of a transgender female cop and a man who finds out he’s in a relationship with the mayor’s underage daughter. The last quarter would be canceled after 7 episodes, and would definitely not air today.
4 60 Minutes (1980) – 40.8 million
Long-running CBS current affairs program 60 minutes started in 1968 and still operates today. The show was notable for its focus on stories driven by journalists’ investigations. It began airing on Sundays in 1972, occasionally shifted into the CBS schedule due to the NFL game that day.
Unlike other shows, this is a typical episode of 60 minutes. It features a segment examining the life and career of actress Bette Davis, a deep dive into the American Thunderbirds, and insight into the Palmer Drug Abuse program. More memorable would be the last minute 60 minutes inserted at the top of Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. This shortened episode featured Bill and Hillary Clinton addressing public discourse surrounding then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers.
3 Raid on Entebbe (1977) – 42.8 million
Raid on Entebbe is another quirk of an exit program, the only instance of a network placing a TV movie in the exit slot. The film is a dramatization of Operation Entebbe, the actual 1976 mission where the Israel Defense Forces rescued hostages at Uganda’s Entebbe airport.
Raid is the second of three different films released in the late 70s covering Operation Entebbe premiering on NBC less than a month after ABC Victory at Entebbe. The film was directed by Irvin Kershner shortly before taking james bond and star wars in Never say never, and The empire strikes back. This too features Peter Finch in his last role before his death and wins a posthumous Oscar for his role in Network.
2 Survivor: The Australian Outback (2001) – 45.37 million
Launched in the summer of 2000, Survivor quickly became one of TV’s biggest shows. The reality series puts contestants in a locked country and takes them through a series of challenges for a chance to win $1,000,000. 41 seasons later, the series is still running. The Australian outback stands out for its memorable cast of contestants.
For The Australian outback, 16 contestants were divided into two teams of eight: the Kucha and the Ogakor. “Stranded” begins by sending the survivors on a five-mile trek back to their camps. Naturally, drama ensues between the teammates. For the immunity challenge, tribes must cross broken bridges, climb ladders, and travel by raft to light a torch on a nearby island.
1 Friends (1996) – 52.93 million
The classic 90s sitcom follows the titular Friends as they find their place in New York. By the end of its first season, the series was a bonafide phenomenon making trends and household names among its main cast. The Super Bowl special signed up some giant names to play guest stars, including Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
In the aptly titled “The One After the Superbowl,” Ross is shocked to spot his former pet monkey Marcel in a TV commercial. On the strength of this discovery, he sets out to find the marsupial. Elsewhere, Chandler reunites with a childhood friend, Phoebe performs a few songs in a library, Joey is confused with his days of our lives character, and Monica and Rachel fight for the attention of Jean-Claude Van Damme.
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