NEW YORK – The hot, young comedy Malcolm in the Middle has been given the most coveted spot on TV — the hour following this year's Super Bowl.
The football championship is typically the most-watched program of the year (in 1996 the game was seen by as many as 94.1 million people), and the ratings for whatever follows almost always benefit from the mega-sized audience.
"This was a difficult decision and we had a lot of choices," said Fox entertainment President Gail Berman. "We wanted to make [the post-Super Bowl time-slot] a tremendous family hour and Malcolm seemed perfect for this."
Network execs are usually faced with choosing between giving a new show a running start — or giving an established show wider exposure. But in the past, when the networks have tried to capitalize on the Super Bowl's huge audience by launching a new series, those shows have failed.
Few people remember Grand Slam (CBS, 1990), Davis Rules (ABC, 1991) or a 1987 CBS drama called Hard Copy On the other hand at least one popular show, The Wonder Years debuted after the game in 1988.
"Traditionally, new shows that have debuted after Super Bowl have not had much success," said Berman.
Last year, CBS debuted the first episode of the eagerly anticipated Survivor: Australian Outback immediately after the game, instead of an untested mid-season replacement show. With about 45.3 million viewers, the Survivor 2 premiere scored the series' best ratings of the season.
In 2000, ABC aired an episode of the popular David E. Kelley drama The Practice, and about 23.8 million viewers tuned in.
And the year before, Fox offered a sneak-peak at an episode of the animated show The Family Guy that was seen by about 22 million viewers — but the ratings dropped off considerably when the show moved to its regular timeslot a few months later.
There are few details about the new post-game episode of Malcolm. But Berman said the show will revolve around a disastrous outing, when Malcolm's father Hal, is forced to take the family to the company picnic.
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