When I was a kid, I got so amped about Super Bowl Sunday that I'd watch every minute of pregame coverage–though back then, the pregame show rarely topped two hours, and almost every minute of it was filled with analysis and personality profiles, plus the occasional diverting stunt. (Anyone remember the "two minutes of silence" that NBC tried back in the mid-'80s? It got as much advance hype as the game itself.) Now the pregame show runs all afternoon, with musical performances, comedy routines, and more fake-y host conflict than a week's worth of ESPN. Because of that, I haven't watched more than 15 minutes of a Super Bowl pregame in well over a decade.

This year, though, I committed myself to watching the whole megillah–pregame, commercials, halftime and game–because, hey, it's on, it's in HD, and it gives me something to share with you, the TV Club faithful. This isn't a "liveblog" per se, but it will more like a column full of "stray observations" than a proper TV Club blog entry. There'll be no discussions of recurring themes, in other words–except maybe in the "commercial notes," where I'll take my annual look at "the state of the schlub."

Pregame notes

-Five minutes into the telecast, Fox has informed us that Arizona used to be inhabited by Native Americans, that 'Phoenix' is also the name of "a mythical bird that came back to life," and, in reference to the Patriots' attempt to go 19-0, they've flashed the definition of 'perfection' on the screen. Guys, guys…there's three hours and fifty-five minutes to go. Don't use up all the "A" material so quick,

-For a moment, during the package on the Patriots, I thought Daunte Stallworth referred to Tom Brady as "Tommy Soda," but I rewound it, and he actually said, "Tommy, so…" Nevertheless, I'm calling Brady "Tommy Soda" from now on.

-Okay…So, Ryan Seacrest. Allow me to stipulate that Ryan Seacrest is a tool. Pretty much anyone who makes their living as what our British friends call "a presenter" is inherently tool-ish. That said, I have to admit…Seacrest is good at his job. Granted, that job only requires him to read a few introductory remarks and look fresh-scrubbed, but he reads those remarks with conviction, can ad-lib fairly smoothly if need be, and doesn't seem to have an inflated sense of self-importance. Does the Super Bowl need a "red carpet?" Of course not. But if it's going to have one, I don't really have a complaint with Seacrest as the host. (Especially when he's up next to Jillian Reynolds, who gives a clinic on how not to host.)

-Fox put together a touching montage of former pro players who've died in the past year. It's all the more sweet because usually Fox shies away from acknowledging actual sports history, especially if it requires digging up grainy film of tight ends from the '60s.

-Dear Christ, not Frank Caliendo. Before his first segment, we're warned, "You'll see plenty of him over the next three hours." I've seen plenty of him over the last three years. He's a master impressionist, true, but unless his "Dr. Phil" or "Jay Leno" is actually telling funny jokes, what's the point?

-Why does Howie Long always look like he's doing his job under formal protest?

-Here's some quality time-killin': A comedy sketch in which five guys from Boston and five guys from New York rag on each others respective cities, and then commence a dance-off, West Side Story-style.

-A duet by Sara Evans and Willie Nelson has the visual, audio, and performance quality of a soundcheck, which actually makes it kind of sweet (even though Evans doesn't have much to do except sing the harmony part over the chorus of "Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys").

-Fox is big on digitally inserting faces and foodstuffs into unexpected places. And it's never funny.

-Neil Cavuto from Fox Business files a report on the financial impact of the big game. For an example of what's wrong with the American corporate mentality, I cite the appearance of former GE head man Jack Welch, who says that on the football field as in business, second place isn't good enough. Actually Welch, so long as your profits exceed your expenditures, it really doesn't matter much what place you're in. Asshole.

-After Hugh Laurie gabs with Seacrest, we get a flashback to Bill Walsh's 49ers, set to The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" The UK is in the house, y'all.

-Paula Abdul performs "plausibly live," with a marching band, cheerleaders, Randy Jackson on bass, and a heck of a lot of vocal enhancement. Her song–"Dance Like There's No Tomorrow"–isn't awful, but does it really need Abdul to sell it? What added benefit does Abdul provide, really?

-Early in the show, Seacrest speaks with Laurence Fishburne. Later, he speaks with Samuel L. Jackson. Can those two be in the same city at the same time? What if there's a terrorist attack? Who will play the gruff black authority figures in our blockbuster films?

-Unlike Willie and Sara, Alicia Keys gets to perform inside the stadium. She's good, too, although she seems to have transformed herself into a diva since the last time I saw her: she's wearing a ton of make-up and a skin-tight outfit, and she's working with a pack of dancers. Keys can actually sing though, and has some great songs to work with…unlike a certain American Idol judge I could name.

-I've never played professional sports–or really very much organized sports at all–but when players and announcers start talking about how one of the "keys to the game" is not to get "too emotional" until the whistle blows, I tend to think they're "talking out of their asses."

-Okay, the Russell Crowe-narrated meditation on "What is perfection?" is undeniably cheesy, and full of the kind of "this is what you can aspire to" hoo-hah that makes winning a football game seem more important than it is, but still…the 3D versions of classic artwork are pretty neat-looking. This is the one-year anniversary of my HDTV ownership, and still amazes me how a crystal-clear digital image can make time-wasting bullshit almost worth watching.

Game notes

-Now that "perfection" has been defined, we get additional definitions, for "resiliency" and "teamwork." I tuned in to watch a football game and a dictionary broke out.

-Jordin Sparks does a decent job on the national anthem, but she's helped a lot with the arrangement, which evens out the songs highs and lows and makes it sound more like a Christmas carol.

-A close game is all well and good, but the penalties, challenges and long, fruitless drives made this game feel like it barely got started until the final five minutes. (But what a final five minutes!)

-The play where Manning escaped the clutches of three defenders and threw a ball that David Tyree caught on top of his helmet…that was a classic Super Bowl play. Better hide your heart, girl…Eli's coming.

-I don't know that I'm willing to call a football team going undefeated "history"–using that definition, nearly anything that happens anytime anywhere qualifies as "history"–but the Patriots winning would've meant that I wouldn't have had to look at the '72 Dolphins' mugs on TV every year. Now I get to keep on hearing about the champagne corks popping in Miami whenever some team or another drops a game in Week 10.

-You know you're getting punchy when you start looking forward to seeing what Fox's football-playing robot is going to do during the transitions to commercial. Its gestures never change much, except when the Terminator arrives to kick its ass. That was awesome.

Halftime notes

-I was a little surprised by the preponderance of raised eyebrows when Tom Petty was announced as the halftime performer, since I thought Petty's massive tour and attendant critical resurgence two years ago had re-established his rep as a rock legend. Myself, I'm an unrepentant Petty fan, and I thought he used his 12 minutes well, playing full four songs instead of a medley. I'm betting that all over the country tonight, people watching the halftime show were saying, "I didn't know Tom Petty did that one." Expect sales of his Greatest Hits to skyrocket. (Or maybe Full Moon Fever, from which three of tonight's songs were drawn.)

-Is Mike Campbell the most laid-back great guitarist in rock? I don't think he'd break a sweat if he were soloing on the surface of the sun. Don't think he'd miss a note, either.

-I like how Fox hand-picked a gaggle of young folks to dance in front of the stage and sing all the words, thus fostering the illusion that Petty has fans younger than 35.

-Petty's beard does a pretty good job of hiding his post-cosmetic-surgery reptilian features. The last time I saw him, he looked like a Skrull; now he looks like a Skrull who just got back from a camping trip.

Commercial notes

-The Bud Light Guy who breathes fire would've been plenty cool, but beer ads can never leave well enough alone, so naturally he singes the curtains, the pet, and his date. Take that, women!

-I know I shouldn't be a stickler about these things, but Joe Buck and Troy Aikmen really shouldn't be announcing the game one second and then pitching Diet Pepsi Max the next. I know there's a grand tradition of such things in sports broadcasting–"the perfect pour" and whatnot–but those old-time announcers made no money. Do Buck and Aikmen really need the dough?

-Bud Light guys go to a wine-and-cheese party and hide beer and portable TVs in baguettes and cheese wheels. Take that, women, with your women-y things.

-Danica Patrick is an attractive young woman, but is she really the semi-celebrity that men (and women apparently) most want to see take off her clothes on the Go Daddy website?

-Giant pigeons = terrifying. Thanks for the nightmare juice, FedEx.

-Tide To Go gets the first chuckle of the night from me with their ad featuring a guy on a job interview who can't be heard over his talking coffee stain.

-Careerbuilder.com's runaway heart is cute, but it adds to a general trend of grotesquerie, furthered by the insect-munching dancing lizards in the very next commercial, for Life Water. Later in the night, a talking baby spits up during an eTrade ad; and even later, a guy applies jumper cables to his nipples for an Amp ad.

-Second funny ad of the night: The T-Mobile ad with Charles Barkley harassing Dwayne Wade with constant calls. My favorite part is the quick barrage of random Barkley lines ("and that's why I don't eat shrimp") and the quick barrage of Wade replies ("sleeping, Chuck").

-I'm going on record: Pixar's Wall-E is going to be an instant classic. Every piece of footage I've seen from it gives me an immediate lift.

-Very stylish ad for Sunsilk shampoo, but I have to wonder why such a women-targeted ad is running so late in the game, when fewer women are likely to be watching.

-A Stewie balloon and an Underdog balloon fight for a Coke balloon, and a Charlie Brown balloon ends up getting the bottle. Cute.

-James Carville has to buy Bill Frist a Coke, because he got jinxed. Also cute. (Again, why are these ads airing so late in the game?)

-On the whole, the ads, like the game, were lame until the fourth quarter. As for "the state of the schlub," it looks like guys everywhere still like beer more than they like women, and they all wish they had a better job. (No, they can't have mine.)

Advertisement