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After post-Super Bowl spot, 'Glee' falls short of another big score

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 8:31 PM

After its highly hyped post-Super Bowl Sunday episode that attracted a whopping 27 million Gleeks, Fox's high school musical series "Glee" made its triumphant return to its regular Tuesday time slot, where it encountered a gigantic crowd of -

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What's this?

Just 11.5 million viewers?

Less than half its post-Super Bowl throng?

Oh, well - at least that's a big spike from the most recent original episode of "Glee" that aired in its regular Tuesday slot before Super Bowl Sunday!

Wait, you say it's not?

Its ratings are actually - down?

You say five of this season's previous 10 original Tuesday "Glee" episodes actually attracted bigger crowds than did this past Tuesday's episode?

And seven of the 10 episodes did better among the show's target 18-to-34-year-old viewers?

And five of the 10 did better among 18-to-49-year-olds who are the network's bread and butter?

Well, then, what the heck was the point of giving "Glee" the Very Best Time Slot in All of TV-dom, immediately after the Super Bowl?

Turns out, in the old days - last year - old-school CBS used that best-of-all time slots to launch a series: the reality show "Undercover Boss," in which the head of a waste-disposal company went undercover to discover that his company's middle management was botching his vision for the company and making life somewhat hellish for his employees. About 39 million people stuck around after the game and watched. That's a great show launch.

But there is another school of thought that says God gave us the post-Super Bowl time slot so that Fox could announce last May - when it was unveiling its new prime-time schedule to Madison Avenue at its "upfront" presentation - that it would air an episode of its very hottest show (read: "steep ad rate") in that Very Best Time Slot in All of TV-dom. And then network suits waited for advertisers to line up with checkbooks in hand and counted the money.

Once you start looking at it that way, scheduling a high school musical after the Super Bowl no longer sounds like scheduling on acid and starts to make sense.

The goal never was to take "Glee" to the "next level." The goal was to make as much money as possible on the night. Which also explains why Fox did not cut short its post-Super Bowl XLV blah-blah-blah so that "Glee" could start on time rather than about nine minutes late. Ad time in blah-blah-blah had been sold at a stiffish rate, too, and if you cut short the blah-blah-blah, that means there's nothing to fill the space between ad breaks.

It's not an entirely new school of thought. NBC did it in 1996, for instance, when it ran a one-hour "Friends" episode after the Super Bowl because Jerry Seinfeld, star of NBC's then-hottest show, said take a hike and "Friends" was the network's next-hottest show.

That episode of "Friends" scored NBC one of the biggest entertainment-division revenue-generating nights in broadcast history - or so we're told.

To read Lisa De Moraes's recap of Wednesday's "American Idol," go to washingtonpost.com/style.


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