The Most and Least Watched Post-Super Bowl TV Shows, From ‘Friends’ to ‘Alias’ | Chart

TheWrap crunches 34 years of data for the most-coveted time slot on all of television

friends equalizer alias post super bowl episodes
Warner Bros/CBS/ABC

Season in and season out, the Super Bowl is the most-watched broadcast across all of television for the calendar year. (Yes, even this year, when Super Bowl LV posted relatively unimpressive numbers.) That means it’s also the best lead-in of the year — the kind that can propel the latest reboot of “The Equalizer” north of 20 million total viewers.

The Queen Latifah-led drama — an adaptation of the Denzel Washington movies, which themselves were an update of a 1980s CBS series — drew a 5.1 rating in the key demo and 20.4 million total viewers. Those Nielsen numbers were down from 2020’s post-Super Bowl “Masked Singer” Season 3 premiere episode and are pretty poor, historically speaking.

Among adults 18-49, which is the demographic most coveted by advertisers, this “Equalizer” update ranks dead last of all post-Super Bowl shows since 1988. In total viewers, the tally beat only the 2003 and 2017 broadcasts immediately following the big game.

This year, the granddaddy of all post-Super Bowl episodes turned 25 years old. So maybe not “granddaddy” age, but definitely “daddy” age.

On Jan. 28, 1996, “Friends” scored a monstrous 52.9 million viewers after the big game, hauling in a 28.2 rating in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic. That dwarfs the second-place finisher, CBS’ “Survivor” from 2001, which earned 45.4 million viewers and a 21.8 rating. Those two are the only shows since 1988 (from which reliable records are readily available) to best the massive 40-million-plus viewer mark or a gaudy 20-plus rating.

In third place is 2010’s “Undercover Boss,” besting 2006’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and 2012’s “The Voice” in total viewers, but not in the key demo rating.

At the bottom of the historical pile is 2003’s “Alias,” which got 17.4 million total viewers on ABC. Up one spot — and 200,000 total viewers  — is 2017’s “24: Legacy” on Fox.

Sunday’s “The Equalizer” debut ranks 32nd, below a 2016 episode of Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” and a 2013 “Elementary” episode.

See TheWrap’s list of all 34 post-Super Bowl TV shows below. They are ranked by total viewers.