Fox may have found a family-friendly hit to accompany “American Idol” after its new game “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” debuted to record numbers on Tuesday.
The show was seen by 26.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched series debut in Fox network history and the most popular debut of any series since 1998, according to Nielsen Media Research.
It’s an almost irresistible television concept: quizzing adults on knowledge found in elementary-school textbooks, with real-life fifth graders standing by to offer help and serve up embarrassment.
The game’s first contestant on Tuesday stumbled when asked what month Columbus Day is observed. The school kids knew the answer: October.
Host Jeff Foxworthy requires losing adults to look into the camera and declare: “I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”
Fox is airing the game directly after television’s biggest hit, “American Idol,” on three days this week. It will settle March 15 into a more difficult time slot, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET. That will force series creator Mark Burnett to compete against himself, since Burnett’s show “Survivor” airs on CBS at the same time.
The new game had an 88 percent retention rate after “American Idol” on Tuesday, meaning nearly 9 of 10 people who watched “Idol” kept the TV on for “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” or specifically tuned in for it. No other Fox show has ever held so much of the “American Idol” audience, the network said.
The last series to get such a strong debut was “Jesse,” one of a series of short-lived NBC comedies to squander the advantage of following “Friends” on the schedule.