The Super Bowl captures the American viewing populace like no other TV event. Is it the nachos emanating from the oven? Maybe the sounds of famous musicians entertaining during half-time get people buzzing?
No matter why the NFL’s final game gets such high ratings, the broadcast stations have taken advantage of this phenomenon for decades. These are the best TV shows to air immediately after the Super Bowl and often receive tens of millions of viewers.
1. The Simpsons
The Simpsons started to teeter into watched territory by the time “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” aired after Super Bowl XXXIX, but the world’s most famous adult cartoon stands as the best series to run after the big game. With plenty of football themes and some religious satire mixed in, the episode captured a decent portion of what made the series so beloved.
Friends hit new levels of fandemonium in its second season and crashed through living rooms to the tune of 52 million viewers after Super Bowl 30. “The One After the Super Bowl” famously attracted more eyes than any other series to air after the game, and viewers enjoyed the enormous number of guest stars and Ross’s quirkiness.
3. New Girl
New Girl identifies every little idiosyncrasy of millennials and what makes them click and produces hilarious storylines revolving around love and friendship. “Prince” brought the feel-good sitcom to many new viewers with a well-written episode guest starring Prince.
4. The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years revolutionized TV sitcoms in more ways than one when it premiered after Super Bowl XXII. The series was one of the first ones to operate within the parameters of the period piece genre, a decision that not many programs in the 1980s followed. The absence of a laugh track also demonstrated the need for comedies to mature and engage in more immersive stories and acting.
5. Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy still elicits a positive reaction from fans, but the medical drama was really at the top of its game when it aired after Super Bowl XL. “It’s the End of the World” dabbled in all of the show’s usual romantic and soapy traits and remains a quintessential early-series staple. It might have received even higher ratings if the NFL referees hadn’t meddled with the Seahawks’ chances at a chip right before the episode (signed by a salty Seattleite typing behind the computer screen!)
House leaned on the transcendent performance of Hugh Laurie to prop up Fox’s dramatic television schedule years after cable started to take over the genre. “Frozen” aired after Super Bowl XLII and didn’t sway from the format or try to do anything grand just because it was on after the game.
7. The Office
The Office went all out for “Stress Relief” after Super Bowl XLIII. The workplace comedy often shined brightest when it used all of its talented cast members, and the opening scene in which Dwight panics the office with a pretend fire scare memorialized the series as one of the funniest ensemble sitcoms ever to exist.
Glee delivered unprecedented ratings for a musical series back in the 2010s. It was a brilliant decision to air an episode of the high school comedy-drama after Super Bowl XLV. The plot revolves around a glee club performance at a football game to keep with the theme of the preceding programming.
9. Family Guy
Family Guy fills every syndicated airway in 2024, almost like a McDonald’s on the way to work or a pretzel shop in the mall. But back in 1999, the uncouth sitcom hadn’t introduced itself yet. Fox cleverly decided to pilot the premiere after the Super Bowl, and they put The Simpsons on after the episode to encourage adult cartoon fans to tune in.
10. The Practice
The Practice combines incredible acting, sharp writing, and a keen understanding of legal proceedings. It may not have felt like the most obvious option to air after a football game, but the show deserved the spotlight it received after Super Bowl XXXIV.
11. The X-Files
The X-Files brought a bit of horror and science fiction to football fans’ homes after Super Bowl XXXI. “Leonard Betts” took advantage of the large audience to hone in on the best qualities of the series, with ample special effects and awesome writing by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
12. Malcolm in the Middle
Malcolm in the Middle lies between an uber-popular family sitcom and a cult classic, depending on who you ask. The dysfunction of the Wilkersons provided great comedic fodder in “Company Picnic,” an hour-long episode with hilarious acting from Bryan Cranston and Frankie Muniz.
13. 3rd Rock from the Sun
Family sitcoms often feel contrived and derivative, but 3rd Rock from the Sun never suffered those evaluations. The comedy about aliens trying to live on Earth presented various plot lines that poked fun at human tendencies, and the Super Bowl episode was no different!
14. 60 Minutes
America’s most famous primetime news program has aired after the Super Bowl on several different occasions, most recently in 1992. 60 Minutes never goes out of style because it always understands the pulse of the nation and the types of stories audiences want to hear about.
15. All in the Family
All in the Family probably wouldn’t make it on the airwaves today, but it set a standard for excellent writing and acting in the 1970s. The legendary sitcom about a racist, belligerent husband attracted over 35 million viewers after Super Bowl XII. “Super Bowl Sunday” set a standard for other sitcoms to follow by incorporating the Super Bowl into the episode.
J.J. Abrams’ science fiction series Alias unfortunately never took off like Lost, but those who want to see Jennifer Garner outside of a Capital One commercial should check it out. The thriller delivered an enthralling, two-faced protagonist who plays both sides of the law, and an episode after the Super Bowl was supposed to increase viewership.
17. The Voice
Reality television shows don’t usually need a ratings boost, but The Voice sits in second behind American Idol in singing show lore. The lead-out episode after Super Bowl XLVI helped to cement NBC’s version of the genre as a capable and unique program with plenty of celebrity judges and a fun, competitive style.
18. Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds offered one of network TV’s most addicting formulas for over a decade. It was a perfect fit to come on after the Super Bowl because of its case-of-the-week format. The series relied on strong characters and interesting criminal acts that got inside the minds of the psychotic and the deranged. The spinoff, Criminal Minds: Evolution, keeps the legacy of the drama alive today.
Lassie came on after three of the first five Super Bowls. It’s unfortunate networks don’t cater to families like that anymore. The nostalgic series centering a lovable dog as the protagonist certainly made it easy for people to gather around the TV without worrying about violence or other inappropriate themes.
20. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert’s late-night show brings an edge that other variety programs don’t engage in. CBS decided to introduce Colbert’s political opinions and satire to a wide primetime audience after Super Bowl 50, hoping it would carry over to the 11:35 audience in future episodes.
21. The Blacklist
The Blacklist never really grew in popularity, even after benefiting from airing after Super Bowl XLIX. Still, the James Spader drama possessed a sturdy audience of dedicated fans who enjoyed the drama and mystery that many network crime series can’t replicate anymore.
22. Survivor: The Australian Outback
Survivor created fan fervor in a myriad of ways in the early 21st century. The second season premiere after Super Bowl XXXV brought the series to Australia with plenty of new cast mates and an immersive, foreign setting down under.