Best of the pregame
There's no way to make a five-hour pregame watchable unless you are constantly shifting topics, locations and analysts, and that's exactly what NBC did. The highlight, despite a couple of moments of lost audio, was Matt Lauer's live humorous and serious interview with President Obama. Overall, a, well, watchable pregame except for that whole Top Chef food stuff.
The game plan
NBC Super Bowl producer Fred Gaudelli told the Times on Saturday that the network began having production meetings as far back as March, but that the network wasn't locked into a specific game plan. "You plan, but then you have to follow the game,'' Gaudelli said. "Hopefully you're ready for anything that happens and you're prepared for everything.'' It seemed as if NBC wasn't surprised by anything and was ready for everything. Example: those little dotted red lines that showed the "tackle box'' and that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was outside of it when he threw away a pass in the third quarter and avoided an intentional grounding penalty. There was probably a one-in-a-thousand chance that NBC would use it, but it was ready when needed.
Michaels and Madden
NBC's announcing crew of Al Michaels and John Madden called the game like they have every other game they've ever done, and that was the right thing to do because they remain the best crew in football. To borrow a sports phrase, they did what brought them there. With Michaels and Madden, it is never about one great line or a brilliant watershed moment. But the key is there is never a clunker moment, either. The entire broadcast is one solid-to-good moment after another, and by the end, you have a broadcast that's as good as it gets.
Best use of replay
NBC doesn't fall in love with replays the way Fox and, especially, CBS do, but it does use them wisely. The best examples were to show if Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger scored on the opening drive, if Steelers LB James Harrison scored on the final play of the first half and if Santonio Holmes got his feet down on the winning TD. One nit: In all the replays, there was never any attention paid to what appeared to be a block in the back that would have wiped out Harrison's touchdown.
Halftime analysts (and former coaches) Mike Holmgren and Tony Dungy used their brief halftime appearance to quickly break down what happened on the amazing interception-for-touchdown play that ended the first half. Both showed that you don't have to raise your voice or say outlandish things to be informative and entertaining. Wonder if a network saw these two on Sunday and is on the phone today offering them a job for next season?
Not that either of these things was good or bad, but did you notice how little NBC used crowd shots and its sideline reporters? That might be a product of NBC relying so heavily on what Michaels and Madden do that they go to little else.
How about those shots of downtown Tampa? We never realized downtown could look that nice.
Either advertisers had way less money to spend on elaborate productions or the creative juices just weren't flowing over the past year. Whatever the case, the commercials were way down this year, didn't you think? Diet Pepsi drew a couple of smiles. The Doritos "crystal ball'' ad was sort of funny. Coke's nature ad looked cool. But when those talking babies and a gimmick (those 3-D ads) are the highlight, you know it was a so-so year for commercials. Even the takeoff of the old Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial was a dud.