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A Super Bowl rarity: The game was way better than the commercials



So I’m parked in my office with NBC’s nerdy 3-D glasses perched on my head just before halftime,3dglasses_2   trying to figure out if the monsters and aliens in their highly-hyped three-dimensional commercial actually jump off the screen, when it dawns on me: this is perfect metaphor for all the non-sports TV surrounding this year’s Super Bowl.

Maximum hype, often with minimal results.

Aside from Bruce Springsteen’s amazingly energetic halftime show – is that guy really turning 60 this year? – the commercials and non-sports TV stuff in Sunday’s broadcast felt disturbingly pedestrian; occasional bursts of witty spectacle surrounded by long minutes of mediocre material.

Among the best commercials, were those that fell back on comedy staples: crotch blows and slapstick. The best example may have been Doritos’ ads with the guy who crunches the chips to blow a dress off a beautiful lady before getting creamed by a bus, and an ad in which a hapless office worker slams his boss in his happy place with a fortune-telling snow globe.

The 3-D ads, for the animated film Monsters vs Aliens and NBC’s comedy adventure Chuck, mostly gave me a headache – though the animated stuff responded to the 3-D technology better than live-action. (I knew trouble was coming when a publicist for a 3-D technology company sent a pre-game statement to reporters essentially saying “this stuff looks much better in theaters.”)

E*Trade’s latest ad updated its controversial “talking baby” commercial with two tots; turns out the outtakes featured on their web site were funnier. Web hosting company Go -- which made a reputation on creating ads so smutty they were rejected from the Super Bowl -– aired an ad with race car driver Danica Patrick in the shower that felt like it was co-written by Larry Flynt.

And the Cash4Gold ads featuring bankrupt celebrities Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer just felt like icky exploitation. Shouldn't an ad you've paid $3-million to air acutally leave you liking the product?

There were some bright spots: Pepsi notched an early win with a commercial featuring a ‘60s-era Bob Dylan handing pop star a pair of Ray Bans while the two dueted on Dylan’s “Forever Young” (good thing: the update of competitor Coke's Mean Joe Green spot with Steelers safety Troy Polemalu was more like a desecration).  Alec Baldwin as an alien admitting the TV-streaming Web site is a plot to soften human brains for better eating was priceless. And something I’d always suspected.

I had already picked’s sidesplitting ad, featuring an array of signs you may need to quit your job (including an urge to punch small animals), as the best ad of the night. I didn’t see anything to change my mind Sunday evening.

Before the actual contest began, NBC’s interminable five-hour pregame show veered between the typical football-focused features and game talk, interspersed by celebrity cameos and interviews almost entirely focused on promoting NBC Universal products.

There was soon-to-debut late night host Jimmy Fallon, insulting host Al Roker’s size in a voice that left you wondering if he’d walked right off a tailgating party into the studio. And there was Roker stumping the cast of Universal’s Fast and the Furious sequel into silence by asking what was different in the new film.

Even Today host Matt Lauer’s talk with Barack Obama, beamed straight from the White House, was marred by occasional sound problems and superficial questions about the President's BlackBerry. At least i didn't have to slap on a pair of dorky 3-D glasses to watch it.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:55pm]


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