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Possible Super Bowl bump for FOX sitcoms

By Lombardo David
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let’s take a trip back in time, to a time when families used to gather around their thick television and consume an entire night of programming.

Back then, network executives wisely crafted their programming to flow from one show to another.

There were nights of dramas, action and most famously was NBC’s “Must-See TV” comedy lineup.
During this era there was something called a “lead-in,” which was the premise that a highly rated program could be used to attract viewers for a less popular show on the basis that viewers were too lazy to change the channel after the popular show was over. This method of doing business became less and less successful once televisions became equipped with remotes, so that even the laziest among us could change the channel. But lead-ins have yet to die completely, despite the popularity of online viewing and the DVR, as demonstrated by the benefits enjoyed by the “Lead-Out” programs following the highest rate dramas and comedies on television, “NCIS” and “Big Bang Theory” respectively.

So while this is a dying practice, there is still one lead-in that is as regular as rain: The Super Bowl.
In theory it is the best possible lead-in, because it will be the most viewed television event of the year. It is not perfect, though, with many televisions staying tuned for the lead-out programming, which goes unwatched by people in food comas or too drunk to pay attention.

According to a ranking by Hulu, the best Super Bow lead-outs were the pilot of the “The Wonder Years,” an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Friends,” “Family Guy” and “The Office.”

Potentially benefiting in 2014, when the Super Bowl will be on Fox, are “New Girl” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Based on last year’s ratings, when "Elementary"
on CBS got 20 million viewers
, at the very least “New Girl” will quadruple its average ratings and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a freshman comedy that got picked up for a full season run, would increase its viewership by five times. The bounce could be even higher, though, with some Super Bowl lead-outs attracting almost 40 million viewers.

But what does this mean for both shows? Will people continue to watch?

When “Grey’s Anatomy” had the Super Bowl as a lead-in, I stayed to watch. It was my first experience with the show and I stuck around for about four weeks until pulling the pin.

This will essentially be a re-launch for both programs. They’re going to have to introduce themselves to audiences, which in the case of “New Girl,” haven’t been following the ups and downs of the roommates for the last 2.25 years.

In the case of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” the mid-season chance to meet a wide swath of new viewers is really perfect. Consider that most comedies begin with rocky pilots, the show should be hitting its comedic stride by the time of the big game and it can put its best foot forward.

Selecting these two shows demonstrates Fox’s commitment to a good Tuesday night lineup of comedy. More than that, it indicates that “Dads,” an unfunny waste of time ruining Fox’s lineup that night, is probably not something Fox has any long-term interest in. If “Dads” was appearing after the Super Bowl it would indicate the network’s commitment to the show.

Another possibility for Fox would have been new Sci-Fi drama ”Almost Human”, which debuts in the middle of November. This show probably isn’t broad enough to carry such a large audience, but it would have been a boost for the show and could have set the stage for a two-part episode that would have concluded on Monday night, when the show regularly airs.

I believe this exposure will give a good bounce to both sitcoms. "New Girl" set a high bar with its series premiere, grabbing more than 10 million viewers, and while about half of those fans have left the show, it does suggest there is room for growth. As for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," the airing will be the first time many non-Fox viewers even learn about the struggling show. Unfortunately neither will attract record ratings, because they're starting from a low point and they lack any serious buzz going into the game.

At this point, I just hope they'll both be funny and that I can enjoy them after the game without battling heart burn and/or diarrhea from binging during the game.

Reporting by the Associated Press

Follow @poozer87 on Twitter.

 
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