CBS should have given the post-Super Bowl slot to Survivor

The Super Bowl will air on CBS in February, and the network announced today what series will air immediately afterwards: Elementary, the generic CBS procedural made slightly more interesting by being an updated Sherlock Holmes with Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson.

That show is fine, and above average for a CBS procedural, but they should have given that timeslot to the debut of Survivor‘s 26th season. Really.

The last time CBS aired the Super Bowl, in 2010, it used the slot for Undercover Boss; before that, Criminal Minds in 2007. It was eight years ago in 2004 that CBS aired Survivor: All-Stars‘ debut after the Super Bowl, which was three years after Survivor Australia made its debut in that slot. Survivor isn’t as popular as it once was, but using the Super Bowl could give it a late-life boost.

Big TV Fan points out that “when procedurals run after the Super Bowl, the shows don’t get any kind of boost in their regular slot,” while “shows that have gotten the biggest boost in the last decade have been reality shows.” The site suggests CBS use it for the premiere of Bake Off, their import of the hit UK series.

Reality TV does make the most sense after the game; just look at the ratings. It’s no surprise that The Voice, Undercover Boss, and Survivor have been among the highest-rated post-Super Bowl series. After all, reality competitions share a lot of DNA with sports.

The big advantage to using Survivor is that the show usually has extremely strong opening episodes, visually and narratively, and anyone who hasn’t watched before can jump right in. A procedural has similar structure, except it’s predictable: If you’ve watched CSI, you know about what will happen when it will happen. Survivor continues to surprise us, even in its 25th season.

Also, Jeff Probst has been talking up season 26 as even better than this fall’s season. Probst is no stranger to hyperbole (and I know hyperbole!), but the rumors out of that season seem to back that up. In addition, 26 is (yet another) season with returnees–half of the 20 cast members are all-stars–it has an even greater chance of attracting people who may have given up on the show, never mind firing up a fan base that seems to be relatively enthusiastic about this fall’s season.

Survivor performs well for CBS in its timeslot and okay overall, but could use a boost to power it past The X Factor among all-important younger viewers.

Most of all, when you have one of the best-produced reality competitions on television, you should showcase that to one of the biggest audiences in television.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.