Companies pay millions of dollars to be a part of Super Bowl Sunday, when people all over the world will be gathered around their TVs to enjoy any combination of football, the best commercials and musical performances. It’s not lost on Justin Hartley how fortunate he is to have his new series Tracker debuting on CBS after the big game, and he voiced appreciation for how being on This Is Us made this opportunity possible.
Tracker is Justin Hartley’s first leading role on television since the six-season drama This Is Us wrapped on NBC in 2022, and it’s no secret how much fans grew to love Kevin Pearson and the rest of his family on the timeline-jumping, tear-jerking family saga. In fact, Hartley told NewsWeek that Tracker — and its enviable post-Super Bowl premiere timeslot — wouldn’t have been possible with it. He said:
I'm executive producing and starring in a show on CBS that airs right after the Super Bowl because of the opportunities This Is Us afforded me. I owe so much to that show.
It’s safe to say that plenty of those who tune into Tracker’s premiere will be fans of This Is Us who are curious about Justin Hartley’s new project — as well as the promise that Hartley goes shirtless 5 minutes into the episode — but Colter Shaw definitely sounds like a completely different character than Kevin Pearson, who was also known to doff his shirt as the star of the fictional sitcom The Manny.
It's more than just the fan support though. Justin Hartley explained that it was This Is Us producer Ken Olin who introduced the actor to the Jeffery Deaver book The Never Game that Tracker is based on. Before the final season of the NBC drama, Hartley said he and Olin were already talking about working together again, and the actor recalled:
He goes, ‘You gotta read this book. It's incredible.’ I read it and fell in love with the character. We kind of looked at each other and we were, ‘This is the thing, this is what we have to do. We have to figure out a way to get this on TV.’
Justin Hartley said he and Ken Olin started looking at writers for the show that would become Tracker while This Is Us Season 6 was filming. The actor continued:
We went out and pitched it, and we ended up at a great place at CBS. We were able to shoot the pilot, and I thought it was in really good shape. It's a kind of show I would watch. CBS ended up loving it so much they gave us a Super Bowl spot.
It’s a pretty big vote of confidence from the Eye Network to nab that timeslot, and the reviews of Tracker’s first episodes seem to be in support of that. Many critics think CBS has a new hit on their hands, with CinemaBlend's own Laura Hurley saying Super Bowl viewers definitely need to stick around for Tracker after the Lombardi Trophy is awarded to either the 49ers or Chiefs.
Justin Hartley may have moved on to other projects following This Is Us, but like so many of its loyal viewers, the series isn’t one he’ll forget anytime soon. Tracker premieres February 11 following the Super Bowl and will continue to air on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. You can see Hartley on This Is Us by streaming all six seasons with a Netflix subscription or Hulu subscription.