5 of the best shows to ever air after the Super Bowl

Updated February 3, 2018 - 9:56 pm

“Family Guy” and “Airwolf” debuted there, and “Grey’s Anatomy” used it to make you fall in love with Kyle Chandler only to have him explode.

The post-Super Bowl time slot is one of the most important TV hours of the year, but that wasn’t always the case. The student quiz show “College Bowl” once occupied it, and “Lassie” called it home three times.

This year, NBC is using it to finally, mercifully — hopefully — reveal how Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) died on a very special episode of “This Is Us” (approximately 7 p.m.).

Here’s a look at five of the best things to ever happen after the Super Bowl, not including the brief burst of celebrity heaped on Left Shark back in 2015:

“The Wonder Years” debuts (1988)

Shortly after the Washington Redskins’ Doug Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl, ABC transported viewers back to the social upheaval of 1968 and 12-year-old Kevin Arnold’s (Fred Savage) first day at the newly renamed Robert F. Kennedy Junior High. The poignant, bittersweet comedy won the Emmy for best comedy later that year. Most significantly, it introduced a generation of boys to the phenomenon that was Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar).

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” debuts (2003)

Clark High grad Jimmy Kimmel didn’t get the plum post-Super Bowl spot 15 years ago. That went to “Alias.” But his talk show premiered after that with guest host Snoop Dogg, first guest George Clooney, Coldplay performing in the middle of a closed Hollywood Boulevard and Warren Sapp of the victorious Tampa Bay Buccaneers arriving straight from Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego via helicopter.

“Friends” goes Hollywood (1996)

Julia Roberts portrayed a former classmate who went on a date with Chandler. Brooke Shields played a “Days of Our Lives” superfan who stalked Joey. And Jean-Claude Van Damme turned up as Jean-Claude Van Damme. With 52.9 million viewers, the hourlong episode not only is the highest-rated show to ever air after the Super Bowl, it drew more viewers than five of the first eight Super Bowls.

Prince visits “New Girl” (2014)

In 2007, despite a driving rainstorm, The Purple One delivered the most iconic halftime performance that didn’t include Janet Jackson’s breast. Seven years later, he mined his public persona for laughs as he hosted a house party and gave Jess (Zooey Deschanel) advice on love.

“Homicide: Life on the Street” debuts (1993)

The gritty police drama was never a ratings success. It’s one of the best network series you’ve probably never seen. But it helped launch the career of David Simon (“The Wire”), on whose nonfiction book it was based. It introduced Richard Belzer’s John Munch, who would transition into the “Law & Order” universe and appear in a total of 10 series. And it made a star out of Andre Braugher, who won the Emmy for best actor in a drama series in 1998 — making him the last African-American actor to do so until Sterling K. Brown won in 2017 for “This Is Us.”

What to watch

Mike Tirico and Katie Couric host the Opening Ceremony (5 p.m. Friday, NBC) of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Rufus and Kassi from the Nevada SPCA No-Kill Animal Shelter will take the field for “Puppy Bowl XIV” (noon Sunday, Animal Planet).

Rio headliner Eddie Griffin celebrates his 30th anniversary in comedy with the stand-up special “Eddie Griffin: Undeniable” (10 p.m. Friday, Showtime).

Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France are the new experts dishing advice on the rebooted “Queer Eye” (Wednesday, Netflix).

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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