SUPER BOWL XL: EVERYTHING ELSE
Well folks, I'm here to cover everything besides the football. The commercials, the entertainment, still more commercials — just think of me as a food critic who's more concerned with the side dishes than the main course. (Mmm, mashed potatoes.) And away we go.
Preshow and Halftime
Stevie Wonder and Friends — the friends including John Legend, Joss Stone (so sexy with the bare feet!), India.Arie and a whole mess of dancers — treat us to a head-bopping medley of classics, from "Superstition" to "Dancin' in the Streets." Wow, it's nice to see a Motown tribute done by artists with a vested interest in the genre — as opposed to the annual soulless, badly choreographed version we get on American Idol. The national anthem proves a little tough for me to get through, not because Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin and Dr. John are anything less than superb, but because I'm still giggling from the spoofed version from this week's Saturday Night Live. Yeah, that's right, I think the phrase "cocoa butter" is just plain funny. Sue me. Then there's the 18-hour March of the MVPs, as the likes of Joe Namath, Bart Starr and Lynn Swann enter Ford Field to generally polite applause and flashbulbs. This seems like a nice way to practice my feigned interest for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on Friday, which I clearly won't be watching, because, hello, Arrested Development minimarathon. Sorry, Torino. And after many, many hours of fanfare, the Rolling Stones finally take the stage at halftime for a safe set of crowd pleasers: "Start Me Up," the relatively new track "Rough Justice" (kudos, ABC, for not turning this into an In Justice promo), and, natch, "Satisfaction." Can you believe this song's more than 40 years old? You'd think maybe Mick and the boys would be a little satisfied by now. Seriously, have a Snickers. But the bottom line is, the Stones get the job done, and we make it through all three songs without having to see anybody's (man) boob.
Highlights: MacGyver saves the day in a "priceless" way for MasterCard; cavemen, dinosaurs and subtitles help FedEx score the first belly laugh of the evening; Budweiser's ambitious Clydesdale colt makes me go "awww" in spite of myself; Dove's "True Colors" self-esteem spot takes me from "awww" to full-on misty eyes; Godzilla and the Iron Giant make sweet sweet love and get a baby Hummer out of the deal; and Sprint's "crime deterrent" proves that people gettin' beaned in the face will always and forever be hilarious.
Lowlights: Kermit and Miss Piggy sell out hard-core for Ford and Pizza Hut, respectively; the "cheesy bites" reign of terror continues with Jessica Simpson further bastardizing Nancy Sinatra's legacy; Burger King forces well-meaning showgirls to dress up like lettuce and pickles for an unappetizing Cirque du Whopper; Diet Pepsi tries to convince us that "brown and bubbly" are, in fact, desirable attributes in products meant for human consumption (oh, and Jay Mohr? Jerry McGuire was 10 years ago, dude — move on); and ESPN Mobile's recurring "sports heaven" ads are charming enough but lose points for putting '60s crooners Chad & Jeremy's "Summer Song" in my brain for what I'm going to predict will be at least the next 72 hours.
As for ABC's blitz of self-promotion throughout the evening, I'm gonna call it a draw. The sports heroes (and Hef?) pledging their affection for Desperate Housewives struck a perfectly playful tone and suited Super Sunday to a T. But the Alphabet net loses every last ounce of my goodwill after that truly atrocious "Addicted to Lost" spot, complete with creepy footage of Robert Palmer from beyond the grave. I've been living under the assumption that nothing could ever outdo the sheer horror of Kraft's "Crumbelievable" pièce de résistance, but clearly, I stand corrected.