So I'm parked in my office with NBC's nerdy 3-D glasses perched on my head just before halftime, trying to figure out if the monsters and aliens in a highly hyped three-dimensional commercial actually jump off the screen, when it dawns on me: This is a perfect metaphor for all the nonsports TV surrounding this year's Super Bowl.
Maximum hype, often with minimal results.
Aside from Bruce Spring- steen's amazingly energetic halftime show — is that guy really turning 60 this year? — the commercials and nonsports 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: 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 accidentally slams the 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 smelled trouble when a publicist for a 3-D technology company sent a pregame statement to reporters essentially saying, "This stuff looks much better in theaters.")
And the Cash4Gold spot featuring bankrupt celebrities Ed McMahon and MC Hammer just felt like icky exploitation. Shouldn't an ad you've paid $3 million to air make you like the product?
The bright spots: Pepsi scored early with a commercial featuring a '60s-era Bob Dylan handing pop star Will.i.am a pair of Ray-Bans while the two sang Dylan's Forever Young; Alec Baldwin as an alien admitting the TV-streaming Web site Hulu.com is a plot to soften human brains for better eating was priceless. And something I'd always suspected.
Bad for Coke: The update of its Mean Joe Greene spot with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was more like a desecration.
Days before, I had picked careerbuilder.com's sidesplitting ad, featuring a list of signs you might need to quit your job (including an urge to punch small animals), as the best ad of the night. I didn't see anything Sunday to change my mind.
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 banal questions about the president's BlackBerry. At least, I didn't have to slap on a pair of dorky 3-D glasses to see it.