Super showcase: ‘Glee’ to become latest series to exploit post-game slot

By Chuck Barney
Contra Costa Times

The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be the only ones out to wow America on Super Bowl Sunday. Those scrappy underdogs from Fox’s musical sensation, “Glee,” are also bringing their “A” game.

Airing directly after the title clash, “Glee” will present a massive song-and-dance homage to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. With a price tag reportedly in the $3 million to 5 million range, it’s the show’s most expensive episode to date.

Thus continues the grand television tradition of trying to milk the plum post-Super Bowl time slot for all it’s worth. Knowing that it’s the biggest showcase of the year, networks typically bank on the slot to launch a new series – as CBS did with “Undercover Boss” last year – or to boost the profile of an existing show.

“Glee,” which already has a robust fan base, might not seem like a natural fit with the football crowd. That undoubtedly explains why it will open Sunday’s episode with a dance number featuring cheerleaders and plenty of skin.

Not every post-Super Bowl TV show is a winner, of course. In 2007, CBS coughed up a fumble with a gloomy episode of “Criminal Minds” that — ugh — had James Van Der Beek playing a serial killer. Still, there have been enough memorable moments to comprise a mini hall of fame.

Let’s go to the highlight reel:

“The A-Team” (1983)

We pity the fools who missed the two-hour pilot of NBC’s soldiers-of-fortune thriller. With its fast-paced action, abundant violence and a scowling star (Mr. T) who was built like a linebacker, the show proved to be perfect fodder for viewers already revved up from watching the Washington Redskins throttle the Miami Dolphins. Audience: 21.9 million.

“60 Minutes” (1992)

All eyes were on the CBS newsmagazine as presidential candidate Bill Clinton showed up – with wife Hillary – to address the allegation that he’d had a extramarital affair with model-actress Gennifer Flowers. “That allegation is false,” he tells reporter Steve Kroft, displaying a coolness under pressure many quarterbacks would envy. Audience: 24.8 million.

“Friends” (1996)

The NBC comedy, already a megahit, unleashed an all-out blitz with a parade of guest stars that included Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Jean Claude Van-Damme and Chris Isaak. Critics mostly panned the episode, which had the gang visiting a movie set. But viewers piled on, making it the most-watched post-Super Bowl show ever. Audience: 52.9 million.

“Survivor: The Australian Outback” (2001)

“Survivor” fever was at full-blast when the CBS reality show returned for its Season 2 opener. This edition introduced fans to several colorful contestants, including Colby Donaldson, Jerri Manthey and Amber Brkich. It also launched Elisabeth Filarski’s (Hasselbeck) TV career. “Survivor” went on to be the top-rated series of the season. Audience: 45.3 million.

“Grey’s Anatomy” (2006)

In one of the show’s most tense episodes ever, a patient arrives at Seattle Grace with an unexploded bazooka shell embedded in his body. The “code black” situation puts the entire hospital at risk and leaves Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) holding the trigger. A gut-wrenching cliffhanger kicked the fan frenzy surrounding the ABC series to new heights. Audience: 37.8 million.

“The Office” (2009)

Then in its fifth season, the sitcom probably wasn’t NBC’s best game-day option, but it delivered perhaps the funniest post-Super Bowl episode ever. It had clueless boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) trying to relieve workplace stress by offering himself up for a comedic roast. The laughs were punctuated by cameos by Jack Black, Jessica Alba and Cloris Leachman. Audience: 22.9 million.