Quick: What’s the biggest show on television right now? Two and a Half Men? Please, one episode does not a season make. Dancing With the Stars? Good try. Glee? Okay, you’re flailing. Try Sunday Night Football. Just this past Sunday, while 12.4 million viewers watched as the television industry dressed up and handed out Emmys, nearly twice as many (23.4 million) tuned in to watch the Falcons edge the Eagles. NBC is paying the NFL approximately $600 million this year alone for the rights to broadcast 20 football games – and it’s the greatest bargain in television. Think about it. Not only does SNF draw weekly audiences that only American Idol can top, but no one is DVR-ing a football game. The Sunday night NFL game might be the final frontier in Event Television. Everyone is watching on Sunday night, and everyone is talking about what happened on Monday morning. Did you see that pass from Tom Brady? What was Andy Reid thinking wasting those timeouts? Who knew Tony Romo had a heart, much less a lung?
At Entertainment Weekly, we have been guilty of ignoring football except during the Super Bowl. (Even then, it was mostly for the commercials.) But our aversion to exercise and physical activity of any kind has deterred us from covering what has long been one of the biggest shows on television.
For years, ABC dominated with Monday Night Football, a program that transcended the world of sport with Howard Cosell interviewing luminaries like John Lennon. Since 2006, the spotlight has shifted to Sunday night, where NBC has built a showcase that is must-see television for even casual fans who just want to keep up with their fantasy-football team. Every week, the telecast frames the heroes and villains of the gridiron in a way that the most accomplished showrunners would envy. There’s drama every week, tension as the game develops, and if Joe Namath is lurking on the sideline, you can even count on some romance.
Not only does NBC boast the biggest football stars and the best game announcers – Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth – but their hour-long pregame show, Football Night in America, brings you up to date on the day’s 14 other games. It’s the perfect recap of what you may have missed while at your nephew’s 2-year-old birthday party. NBC is a firm believer that when it comes to studio personalities, more is more. So not only do they have Al Michaels, but they have Bob Costas, and Dan Patrick, and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, and Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy. (They even experimented briefly with Keith Olbermann.) The competition for airtime, as a result, is sometimes as brutally entertaining as anything you catch on the field.
So starting this Sunday, we’ll be recapping Sunday Night Football – treating it like it’s True Blood or Modern Family. We might not know the intricities of the Wildcat offense, but when has that ever stopped your cubicle-neighbor from ruining your Monday morning with his version of what the Steelers should’ve called on 3rd-and-7? Besides, if Sports Illustrated can put Brad Pitt on its cover, I think we’re in our right to cover the biggest show on television. So tune in Monday morning to discuss NBC’s broadcast of the Steelers/Colts. I’m setting the over/under of time spent on Peyton Manning’s neck injury during the pregame show at 12.5 minutes.