Love it or leave it, sometimes the best thing about the Super Bowl is the entertainment that follows it. To celebrate Super Sunday, here are five TV episodes that brought something special to their post-game moment.
When “The Wonder Years” debuted after the Super Bowl XXII game in 1988, it wasn’t the first series to premiere in that hallowed time slot, but it was arguably the most successful. America fell in love with the charming tale of how Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and the country came of age during the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
In 1997, Fox gave the most coveted annual spot on TV to “The X-Files,” then in its fourth season. The episode “Leonard Betts” was the perfect blend of the show’s horror and humanity, featuring a regenerating EMT who feeds on cancer and a corresponding diagnosis for one of the show’s primary players.
It’s hard to remember a time when “Survivor” wasn’t a reality-television staple, but when it arrived after the Super Bowl in 2001, it had aired only a single season. The debut of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” after Super Bowl XXXV scored 45 million viewers and proved that the series wasn’t a flash in the pan, but rather the new face of television.
By 2003, the Super Bowl was back on ABC, and the network opted to give “Alias,” starring Jennifer Garner, the spotlight. “Phase One” was appealing to fans, with a new villain played by Rutger Hauer, but too complicated an episode for new viewers. It was a miscalculation further exacerbated by ABC’s decision to air a Bon Jovi performance immediately after the Super Bowl, bumping “Alias” out of prime time on the East Coast and earning it the lowest overall ratings for a post-game episode since 1987.
ABC scored more of a touchdown in 2006 when it lined up second-season phenom “Grey’s Anatomy” to air after Super Bowl XL. The series unrolled “It’s the End of the World,” the first of a two-part episode that began with lead Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) having a premonition of death and ended with her in a life-or-death situation with a problem patient. Only a week later would viewers find out what became of Grey after that cliffhanger first part of the episode. (Spoiler: She lived. The show is named after her.)