The best thing I saw on Super Bowl Sunday? Pan's Labyrinth. But that's a different story (or a different column). Anything to get out of doors (even in the frigid cold) to skip the first few hours of pre-Super Bowl hype.

The worst thing I saw on Super Bowl Sunday? A typically unpleasant, thoroughly predictable episode of Criminal Minds that followed the big game. More on that later.

In between, we had a game played in torrential rain that had plenty of reversals (how slippery was that football, anyway?) and was plenty exciting, especially to a former Indiana resident and current Peyton Manning fan. The buzz about Super Bowls is that this is usually the one night of the year when you actually watch the ads and zip your TiVo through the game. This year, that would have been a mistake.

I lost count of the number of moronic Bud Light ads I had to sit through just to get to the two memorable ads for classic Budweiser. As usual, there was a classy one involving Clydesdales, this year focusing on a mutt who, when splattered and spotted with mud, gets to pretend to be a Dalmatian and thus ride in a parade with the mighty horses (and the beauty queens). Later in the game, another clever Budweiser ad (clever because the animals didn't actually speak) offered up a gathering of crabs on the beach who scuttle away with a cooler of Buds; when the sun hits the cooler and two longneck bottles, casting a shadow that resembles a godlike crab, the crabs mimic and bow to it.

The celebrity ads seemed a bit of a bust. I'd heard that Robert Goulet was spoofing his fame (such as it is) in an Emerald Nuts ad, but the concept was awfully random, casting the singer as an office gremlin who messes things up while employees take their afternoon nap. He didn't sing a note, which made me wonder: Is Goulet truly that iconic? What gives? The other quasi-celebrity ad of note featured Kevin Federline dreaming of rap stardom while pushing fast-food fries in his more humbled post-Britney existence. I guess that's more funny than sad. Hard to say.

The only star sighting I truly enjoyed, because it was such a surprise, was the quickie David Letterman promo that showed him and Oprah curled up on a couch watching the game. "Honey, don't talk with your mouth full," she said. Great gag. (Almost as funny as Jim Gaffigan's beard comb-over in a Sierra Mist Free ad.)

Of the many talking-animals ads, a Super Bowl staple, the best were for Blockbuster, which gave new meaning to "dragging the mouse"; Bud Light, in which a gorilla is too busy posing for pictures to participate in a smash-and-grab plot; and Taco Bell, with lions jawing about the pronunciation of "carnes" (with a fun swipe at Ricardo Montalban) while watching campers chow down.

If the ads were mostly ho-hum, at least the game had its moments and moved relatively swiftly. As for halftime, CBS' first since the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake debacle, Prince kept his clothes and his groove on, in what may go down as the most memorable superstar performance in the driving rain since Diana Ross' infamous Central Park concert.

From a purely TV perspective, and regardless of what the ratings reveal today, I am still so disappointed in CBS for giving Criminal Minds the post-game position. I know why they did it. A year ago, ABC took a second-season rising star, Grey's Anatomy, and programmed the first of a two-parter after the game, and the show's fortunes climbed. The same could happen here. The difference, however, being that Grey's is fabulous entertainment with one of the most appealing casts in all of TV, while Minds is the grimmest and grossest of CBS' soul-numbing surplus of crime dramas, featuring an ensemble that often looks like it's in a competition to see who can look the most constipated.

Where Grey's stepped up with a gripping (albeit melodramatic) crowd-pleaser that may very well have won Chandra Wilson her SAG Award of a week ago (and perhaps the cast its ensemble trophy as well), Minds delivered a particularly derivative time-waster that borrowed more than a little from Psycho, featuring former Dawson's Creek throb James Van der Beek as a transparent clone of Norman Bates. Even if the shot of blood going down the shower drain wasn't a giveaway we were in Psycho territory, only a novice to this genre would have been surprised by the reveal that our tormented Dawson (frequently flashing back to childhood scenes of abuse by a religious zealot father) was two villains in one, channeling the spirit of his mad father as well as his more timid tech-support self. The cliff-hanger climax was especially silly, in which nerdy Reid tried to go all action-hero but was felled in a cornfield by split-personality Dawson; meanwhile, JJ was in a barn, facing down killer dogs who had devoured an earlier victim in a typically nauseating scene.

What I really hate about Criminal Minds is its smug, smarmy hypocrisy. Here's a show that's produced as cheesily as any slasher flick, but when these FBI hacks are told that this week's murders have become the most downloaded videos on the Internet, Mandy Patinkin's dour Gideon clucks his tongue: "Murder as entertainment." As if Criminal Minds isn't all about serving up a weekly diet of gruesome tableaux for the audience's voyeuristic amusement.

After a night of good sportsmanship from two coaches who seem the epitome of decency, and amid a tone of overall celebration and revelry, CBS bungled badly with this deadly choice. I know the network wants to position this show as an even bigger hit, especially with the American Idol juggernaut facing it for the rest of the season, and this may have done the trick (although I'd like to think it scared away more viewers than it attracted). But by putting it on this most high-profile of nights, CBS has basically anointed Criminal Minds as a signature show, something to be proud of. For shame.

When you watch How I Met Your Mother tonight, in a silly but enjoyable farce that's themed to the Super Bowl, try to convince me that it wouldn't have been a much better choice to close out this Sunday. Heck, I'd even have settled for a CSI: Miami two-parter. At least it would have been location-appropriate. And after all that rain, I could have used a little sun.