Hugh Laurie Hugh Laurie

Sure, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers snagged the title of Most Valuable Player at Super Bowl XLV. But to TV viewers, House star Hugh Laurie was far and away the night's TV MVP.

Laurie and House easily scored the most promotional spots among all Fox series during Sunday night's big game. That's quite a coup for an aging series like House, now in its seventh year. But there's a reason why the acerbic doctor was tops (sorry, Fringe fans). House could use a little extra promo help, as the show's once-hot ratings have taken a beating this season (this fall, it was down as much as 35% from a year earlier.)

As Fox's signature drama (with 24 now in retirement), the network needs House to remain a vital player. This week, for example, Fox is counting on the show to help launch its highly anticipated Shawn Ryan cop drama The Chicago Code (both air on Monday). That's why you saw plenty of Laurie on Sunday night. Fox even produced two football-themed House spots just for the occasion. One riffed on the popular phrase used by pro sports teams, "This is our house." The other was a gag on Mean Joe Green's famous 1979 Coca-Cola ad. In the Mean Joe Green parody, a young kid offers a churro to Dr. House — who returns the favor by tossing his cane, which smacks the boy in the face. The promo was cited as a Super Bowl commercial favorite by some critics.

"Obviously the stronger House is, the stronger The Chicago Code will be," Fox marketing president Joe Earley says. "We had two special football-related spots for House, but we also wanted to make sure that people who hadn't seen it before, or who weren't regular viewers this season... knew that it's an incredible episode (this week)."

Advertisers spent upwards of $3 million per 30-second spot to appear during the Super Bowl; add up all of the House spots, and that would be the equivalent of a mighty hefty time buy. The heavy promo load for House comes despite the fact that Fox's deal with series producer Universal Media Studios to license the show expires at the end of the season, and so far the two sides haven't struck a new deal to bring back the show for an eighth season.  But come negotiation time, Universal will have to admit that House was given plenty of marketing weight by Fox, just as Fox has proven that it still sees the show as a vital part of its lineup.

As for Fox's Super Bowl sneak peaks at new fall franchises The X Factor and Terra Nova, both spots delivered on what was promised: Simon and dinos. The X Factor spot centered mostly on the return of Simon Cowell — which makes sense, as the new talent competition hasn't yet gone into production. And the Terra Nova promo featured the first public glimpses of what the prehistoric-set drama's creatures will look like.

"If you break down the spot, it's bursting at the seams with every aspect of the show — future, past, family adventure, new civilization, idyllic seting, military operation, oh, and dinosaurs," Earley says. "We had to accelerate post-production to get those two dino shots. From a pure production standpoint, it wasn't possible to get more."

Terra Nova debuts at the end of May, timed to the American Idol finale.

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