Millions of Americans will gather around the television this Sunday to watch the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles battle it out for the Super Bowl title. If it’s anything like the second half of last year’s game, in which the Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons, it’s bound to be dramatic.
But not as dramatic as what will happen afterward. NBC will follow the game with an episode of notorious tear-jerker “This Is Us,” one fans have been waiting for since the series began. The Jan. 23 installment revealed how — spoiler alert! — the Pearson family’s house burned down, placing the blame on a faulty slow cooker. We’ve been promised that the post-Super Bowl episode will answer any and all questions regarding the patriarch’s death in that fire.
So after watching football, millions of Americans will probably also watch Jack Pearson die.
It’s an insane move, but it’s been done before. Networks tend to air this kind of episode after the Super Bowl, often from popular drama and comedy series, hoping to ride the ratings wave after what is usually the most-watched TV broadcast of the year. Here are some from recent years that were as crazy as “This Is Us” will likely be.
“New Girl”: “Prince” (Feb. 2, 2014, following the Seattle Seahawks’ victory over the Denver Broncos)
Oh, yeah. That Prince.
After he declined to guest star on the show in the second season, the singer’s manager reached out to showrunner Liz Meriwether the next year to see if the offer was still on the table. Obviously, the answer was yes. Writers built the episode around their legendary guest star, and the story involved Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Cece (Hannah Simone) attending a party held at his house. Jess’s boyfriend, Nick (Jake Johnson), tells her he loves her, and when she responds only with finger guns, he crashes the party to talk to her. After Prince gives her a makeover, Jess ends up telling Nick that she loves him, too. It’s all wrapped up with a pretty bow.
The story doesn’t stand out all that much, but it gave Deschanel, half of the musical duo She & Him, the chance to sing “FALLINLOVE2NITE,” Prince’s song that debuted that night. The episode, which Meriwether called the most expensive they had ever done, also featured appearances from baseball player Clayton Kershaw and models Alessandra Ambrosio, Ana Beatriz Barros and Lais Ribeiro.
“Glee”: “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” (Feb. 6, 2011, following the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers)
Back in its heyday, “Glee” aired an episode in which football players joined the New Directions for a mash-up performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” during halftime. Athletes doing anything other than throwing slushies in the Glee kids’ faces was an unusual move for the show, which thrived on its plots reinforcing the high school’s social hierarchy. And while the catchy song choices aligned with tradition — the dramedy often paired hits with lesser-known tunes — zombie makeup and muddied uniforms made for an elaborate, over-the-top show.
Perhaps even more insane, the episode began with a pyrotechnics-filled performance by the school’s cheerleaders set to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” After watching the blue-wigged Cheerios bounce around in front of students scaling ramps on bikes, Coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) proclaims that she’s bored by the routine. Quinn (Dianna Agron), one of the cheerleaders, tells her, “You have to find a way to top yourself.” The episode took that advice to heart, even featuring a cameo by Katie Couric.
“The Office”: “Stress Relief” (Feb. 1, 2009, following the Steelers’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals)
Clocking in at 42 minutes, “Stress Relief” gave us twice as many shenanigans as usual. “The Office” was notable for its cold opens, and in this one, Dwight tests his colleague’s fire safety skills by setting a trash can ablaze. During the commotion that ensues, Michael swears profusely, Oscar attempts to escape through the vents and — in what makes this stand out from a regular day at Dunder Mifflin — Stanley has a heart attack.
Michael spends the rest of the episode attempting to relieve stress around the office. His methods begin with yoga and end with a comedic roast of himself, for which there’s almost too much material. Written by Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson!), “Stress Relief” also features cameos by Jack Black, Jessica Alba and Cloris Leachman, who play actors in an illegally downloaded movie.
“Grey’s Anatomy”: “It’s the End of the World” (Feb. 5, 2006, following the Steelers’ victory over the Seahawks)
Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) wakes up at the beginning of this episode with the feeling that she might die. It seems ridiculous, but if this show has taught us anything, it’s that Meredith’s dark and twisty feelings are not to be ignored. She’s right, as a patient comes to Seattle Grace with a literal bomb in his chest, and our poor protagonist ends up having to keep her hand in the body cavity mid-surgery to keep it from exploding. Kyle Chandler, playing the “Bomb Squad Guy” from the Seattle Police Department, appears just months before beginning his famed turn as Coach Taylor on “Friday Night Lights.” (Hooray for indirect football connections!)
Oh, and Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) goes into labor while this is all going down. Her husband has a fractured skull and needs surgery, so a fearless McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) steps up to the plate. That’s a cap on the major drama, as Chandler’s character thankfully waited until the next week to blow up.
“The Simpsons”: “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Hall Pass” (Feb. 6, 2005, following the Patriots’ victory over the Eagles)
Before we get to the episode, note the teams that coincidentally also played in 2005. Quarterback Tom Brady even guest-starred in the episode, which aired after he won his third Super Bowl title with the Patriots. He’s one of the multiple athletes — others guests included LeBron James, Michelle Kwan, Yao Ming and Warren Sapp — who wanted Homer to teach them how to celebrate obnoxiously so they could make highlight reels. At one point, Brady’s Simpsonified self hops on a segway with a flag that says, “Everybody sucks but me.” Sounds like TB12, all right.
“Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Hall Pass” notably revealed the real name of Comic Book Guy — a pseudonym that ranks just under Bomb Squad Guy — to be Jeffrey “Jeff” Albertson. After Ned captures a video of Homer dancing at a charity carnival, Comic Book Guy uploads it on the Internet, where it goes viral. And that, apparently, is how you get the attention of Tom Brady.
“Friends”: “The One After the Super Bowl” (Jan. 26, 1996, following the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the Steelers)
It appears there are two popular choices for post-Super Bowl episodes: Either cram in as many guest stars as possible, or make it a two-parter. “Friends” did both.
Ross (David Schwimmer) decides to visit his old pet monkey, Marcel, at the San Diego Zoo. A zoo administrator (Fred Willard) tells him Marcel died, but a janitor (Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson) reveals that Marcel was actually forced into the movie business. As Ross visits the set of a movie Marcel is filming in New York, the rest of the gang also interacts with a deluge of celebrities: Joey (Matt LeBlanc) dates a stalker (Brooke Shields); Chandler (Matthew Perry) encounters a childhood friend (Julia Roberts); Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) dates someone (Chris Isaak) who hired her to perform; and Monica (Courteney Cox) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) fight over Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays himself.
The plot itself isn’t terribly exciting, but Chandler’s arc ends with him in a bathroom stall wearing nothing but women’s panties. So, there’s that.