Question: I just heard that a new episode of Grey's Anatomy will be screened after the Super Bowl next year on ABC. You know, I've always wondered why the networks choose to place one of their most established hits in this coveted time slot, since it almost always only gives the show a minor bump that doesn't really sustain itself long enough to affect the season average by much. I don't think Alias, The Simpsons and Survivor: All-Stars (past occupants of this slot) really saw such exposure translate into higher ratings. Plus the fact that Grey's Anatomy is really an established hit, given how it managed to grow its numbers from its Desperate Housewives rerun lead-in this week. Earlier this season the series premiere of Criminal Minds successfully launched behind CSI, and look how it's doing now (admirably, against Lost). Since most established shows already have their own followings, why not save the post-Super Bowl slot to launch one of ABC's mid-season shows instead? I'm especially looking forward to J.J. Abrams' What About Brian?, but I fear it just wouldn't find a good place in this crowded schedule to build an audience. I'm also looking forward to CBS' The Unit. Any chance CBS might preempt, say, Cold Case or Without a Trace during the rerun-heavy months of March and April in order to let this show find an audience behind a show with a good lead-in?
Answer: The track record of launching new shows in the post-Super Bowl slot isn't so hot, so it makes perfect sense to me to use this platform to christen an emerging hit and reinforce Grey's Anatomy's status as the watercooler show of the moment. Better this than Desperate Housewives, for sure, given the football demos. (Although the Super Bowl is mass-market programming, to say the least.) By the end of the Super Bowl, the regular viewer has been tuned in for so long that the idea of launching a softer show like What About Brian? could do more harm than good. However, endless promotions for shows like Brian during the Super Bowl could possibly pay off. Grey's ought to play just fine in what is more or less its regular time period (unless ABC lets the postgame show run long, as unforgivably happened the night Alias got the nod). As for The Unit: Haven't a clue what CBS will do with it. Haven't seen it, so don't know what it would be compatible with. But I'd be shocked if CBS rests an already potent hit like Trace or Cold Case to make room for it. (Of all the CBS procedurals that could be bumped, I'm thinking CSI: NY is the most likely, with Close to Home the other logical choice, except it would be pitting two Shawn Ryan shows against each other if Unit faced The Shield.)