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Lisa de Moraes: Viewers of record-setting Super Bowl XLV tuned out for 'Glee'

NOT MUCH TO CHEER ABOUT: Even "Glee's" cheerleaders couldn't retain most of the Super Bowl's 111 million viewers.
NOT MUCH TO CHEER ABOUT: Even "Glee's" cheerleaders couldn't retain most of the Super Bowl's 111 million viewers. (Michael Yarish)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011; 11:43 PM

Sunday's Super Bowl clocked a historic 111 million viewers.

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"Glee" fumbled away 84 million of them.

That's right - even an opening number festooned with hot, blue-wigged cheerleaders sporting sparkler-bedazzled Gaultier-ish bra tops failed to keep Sunday's Super Bowl-watching horde on board for the "Glee" episode that followed.

Sunday's Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched program in U.S. television history: Its average of 111 million broke the record of 106.5 million set a year ago by Super Bowl XLIV, as well as the 106 million people who watched the series finale of "M*A*S*H," which held the record from 1983 to 2010.

The "Glee" show that followed - in which the burly boys of the McKinley High football team feuded with not only the glee club but also the school's hockey team - dropped about 84 million of those football fans, averaging just less than 27 million viewers in the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot.

That's a whole lot smaller crowd than the 39 million who'd stuck around after last year's Super Bowl to watch CBS's unveiling of the Practically Perfect post-Super Bowl Show - a.k.a. "Undercover Boss," in which the head of a waste-disposal company went undercover and discovered that his company's middle management was botching his "vision" and making life somewhat hellish for employees. (And that "Undercover Boss" premiere had been the third-highest-rated post-Super Bowl audience ever, behind the famous post-Super Bowl "Friends" episode of 1996 that clocked a whopping 53 million viewers, and the post-Super Bowl premiere of "Survivor: The Australian Outback" that averaged 45 million in 2001.)

Sunday's game marks the sixth consecutive year that Super Bowl viewing has increased. Over those six years, the franchise has gained nearly 25 million viewers. According to Nielsen Media Research, about 163 million people caught at least six minutes of Sunday's game, which means they presumably saw at least one ad break. And were presumably disappointed, because this year's crop of Super Bowl ads sure was disappointing.

On Monday, Fox was making the rounds, reminding the press that Sunday's "Glee" got off to a bit of a late start, at 10:30 p.m. The longer a night wears on, the harder a show has to compete against Going to Bed.

But you and I know that the big issue "Glee" faced after the Super Bowl on Sunday was that it's, you know - "Glee."

And, on Fox's point: Last year's "Undercover Boss" premiere started at 10:13 p.m. - a full 26 minutes earlier than "Glee" did Sunday. But Sunday's Super Bowl game actually ended at 10:07 p.m. . . . Maybe Fox suits should not have let the post-game blather drone on quite so long, you think?

For comparison's sake, when "Glee" returned from a four-month hiatus last April, in a time slot following "American Idol," it clocked just less than 14 million viewers. And "Glee's" Ode to Brit-Brit episode attracted an average of 13.5 million fans, while the Madonna-centric episode snared about 13 million.

And don't be confused by press reports that the audience for Sunday's Super Bowl was 162.9 million people. That was not the game's average audience. That was the so-called "reach" number - the number of people who watched as little as six minutes of the game.

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