If only they'd blacked out the ads.
What a bizarre Super Bowl Sunday it was, from the oddly imbalanced game to the 34-minute Superdome power outage that separated the Ravens blowout of the first half from the 49ers blowout of the second half, pushing a fairly gripping Elementary episode past prime time on the East Coast.
Turns out the stadium wasn't the only thing lacking power. With very few exceptions, this year's Ad Bowl was a bust. Take the Budweiser brand. Please. If it weren't for the Clydesdales once again rescuing the beer maker with a moving ad about a horse reunited with his trainer (to the tune of Landslide), the prolific company would have come up all empties. Annoying hipsters hawking the Black Crown label were a total turn-off — "Beer for a—holes," Modern Family's Steve Levitan tweeted — and Bud Light's running gag of Stevie Wonder as a voodoo "mojo" priest wasn't much better.
"It's only weird if it doesn't work," was the latter campaign's tag line. This year, it was weird when an ad actually worked. (Another case in point: Coke's anticlimactic yawn of a "Coke Chase.") Even the placements were strange, with a Doritos spot followed by a graphically provocative Calvin Klein underwear ad featuring half-naked men who've obviously never indulged in snack food.
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Among the precious few winners: An Oreos skirmish over "cookie vs. cream" turning a library into a war zone, with the mayhem conducted in whispers (the brand also scored with a clever instant-ad tweeted during the blackout); emotional tributes to the military from Jeep (with Oprah narration) and to farmers from Dodge Ram (with voice-over from late radio personality Paul Harvey); revenge of the sitcom divas, with Amy Poehler badgering a Best Buy salesman with silly questions, and Kaley Cuoco granting wishes as a genie for Toyota (The Big Bang Theory cast in football drag was another highlight); Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen pitching "next big thing" ideas to sleazy ad man Bob Odenkirk (channeling his Breaking Bad character of Saul Goodman) in an overlong but clever satire of celebrity endorsements; Glee's Naya Rivera molesting a giant red M&M.
Too many others gave us moments we wish we could un-see: the revolting GoDaddy kiss, the 2 Broke Girls pole dance, Psy cracking pistachio nuts Gangnum style, Tracy Morgan shrilly shilling for some energy drink, and so on.
The one part of Super Bowl Sunday that absolutely lived up to the hype was Beyoncé's electrifying half-time show, a sizzling and sexy fireburst of ferocious showmanship that included a brief reunion with Destiny's Child. Beyoncé looked astonishing, she sounded as good as anyone does under those pyrotechnic circumstances, and as she joyously vamped across the stage with all kinds of flashy camera tricks, her charisma and energy proved to be the best special effect of all. She was the superstar MVP of a night we'll not soon forget, though not always for the best of reasons.