Five Angry Vidiots vs. Super Bowl XXXIX
Now, as always, it’s time for the bitter recriminations: which ads worked, which didn’t, why the damned server went down, that sort of thing. This year, we collected five Vidiots together for a roundtable discussion — or as the kids call it nowadays, an “instant message” — of the Super Bowl’s strengths and weaknesses.
Join us, won’t you?
Philip Michaels: Dullsville, baby.
Jason Snell: The game or the ads?
PM: The game. Perhaps the dullest game ever to be decided by three points with the final outcome still nominally in doubt with a minute or so to play. You could look it up.
JS: I found it remarkably poorly played. But then again, the Patriots as a team are not in it to entertain you. They just want to sit on their opponents until the clock runs out. Which is what happened.
PM: To draw a parallel to hockey — just for the six or seven hockey fans in the country who might be reading this site and will therefore understand what I’m talking about — the Pats are like the New Jersey Devil teams of the 1990s. Very successful. And very dull.
Steve Lutz: I found the game to be very fast-paced and exciting. But only because I watched the whole thing in double fast-forward mode on the TiVo.
PM: Send a memo to Paul Tagliabue, Steve. That approach might improve NFL games immeasurably. Especially since New England’s reign of terror figures to continue for the time being.
Lisa Schmeiser: The whole thing had the whiff of Amateur Hour.
SL: From Fox? The shit, you say…
LS: This is the NFL’s flagship event. It’s supposed to be what cements its public image with non-football fans like me. And Fox’s take on it is just so much gimcrackery.
PM: I always get this feeling before any Fox Sports telecast — the World Series, the Super Bowl, whatever — that Fox assigns crews that have never actually watched the sports they’re tasked with covering. So you wind up not getting replays of key penalties that wind up nullifying interceptions. Until after the commercial breaks, of course. Oh, there was a holding call on that play? Well, I guess I’ll just take Joe Buck’s word for it since none of the 300 cameras taping the action appeared to have caught the penalty.
JS: Speaking of gimcrackery, I enjoyed the premiere of “pylon-cam.” Namely, that nothing interesting was happening at the pylon, so to recoup the expense of planting that camera, they showed Corey Dillon scoring far, far way from “pylon-cam” and said, “If you ever wondered what a touchdown looked like from a pylon… there you go.”
LS: You know, I have wondered that.
JS: Fox may appear to be a major network, but it’s really a chintzy operation that values sound effects over information.
PM: Now there’s an innovation: Sleestack-cam!
SL: With Enik reporting from the sidelines.
PM: “Chaka turnover, no!”
SL: “Let’s go to the sleestack for his analysis. Sleestack?” “Hissssss, hissssss, hissssssssss.”
JS: Remind me to tell you my theory about Lost sometime — that it’s secretly a remake of The Land of the Lost and that the monster in the jungle is a Sleestak.
LS: That would explain so much.
JS: But if the NFL is truly concerned with the quality of its product — and not just cashing checks — it would rethink its relationship with Fox. Anytime Terry Bradshaw is handing out Lombardi Trophies, you need a serious intervention.
PM: Having gone out of my way to avoid the Fox, CBS, and ESPN pregame shows all throughout the football season, I was shocked that Terry Bradshaw would show up at the Super Bowl wearing a fake beard. It was fake, wasn’t it?
JS: So to sum up: Game boring. Fox awful and amateurish. Or, pretty much what we expect.
JS: This was the year Janet Jackson ruined Christmas.
JS: Well, her and Michael Powell.
LS: One wardrobe malfunction, and we have to suffer through bland, unmemorable commercials. Gutless wonders, all of them.
PM: Although, if government crackdowns on anything straying from safe predictable scripts means I don’t have to watch a Bud Light commercial where a guy in an upside down clown costume drinks a beer through the clown’s posterior, then I, for one, welcome the new age of repression and self-censorship.
JS: Watch out for those four-hour erections, though.
PM: Hey, they aired that Cialis ad after 9 p.m. on the East Coast. You turn on the TV after nine, you should expect to hear people talking about four-hour erections.
LS: While The Ronettes play in the background?
JS: Maybe we should mention something positive…
PM: The FedEx-Kinko’s ad.
SL: Loved it.
JS: Best ad of the day. I really enjoyed the deconstruction of Super Bowl ads. Burt Reynolds was used properly, as a joke.
SL: Burt Reynolds is continuing his rich, post-career career of making fun of Burt Reynolds.
JS: And how can you go wrong with Journey? Don’t stop believing!
PM: It didn’t really do much to sell any sort of product, did it?
LS: Nope. No compelling reason to try out FedEx/Kinkos.
SL: Is anybody on the planet unaware of what FedEx does at this point, though?
PM: Other than maroon Tom Hanks on uncharted isles?
JS: As the ad pointed out, extolling the virtues of your product in a Super Bowl ad is optional. Which was, in itself, a pretty good joke.
LS: It’s a bad sign that I can barely remember that it was FedEx making that joke.
PM: It just seemed like a weird way to spend the money.
JS: That’s really true of many of these ads, though, isn’t it?
LS: The Brad Pitt ad for Heineken surprised me. Typically the A-Listers don’t shill to the common man. That’s what C-Listers are for.
PM: Like P. Diddy.
JS: I thought that ad — the Brad Pitt one — was really well done, actually. As a piece of advertising and film art, I thought it was spot on. Although I do admit that I spent the entire commercial wondering if they had to change the ad because of his split with Jennifer Aniston.
SL: Maybe he’s drinking Heinken to forget about Jen.
LS: I just don’t get what the benefit is to have Pitt shill for Heineken. Drink this beer and going to the store will be a tremendous hassle?
PM: No, no — drink this beer, and you’ll look like Brad Pitt! And then Angelina Joie will bust up your marriage! And Troy will bomb at the box office. And…
JS: I’m $ure Brad Pitt ha$ hi$ rea$on$ for doing that ad.
SL: The first rule of Brad Pitt commercials: do not talk about Brad Pitt commercials.
PM: Well what about P. Diddy, then? Him and his magical Diet Pepsi truck?
LS: I have to take a moment to separate my searing P. Diddy hate from the question…
JS: P. Diddy lost all credibility from me when he appeared at Election Plaza at NBC on Election Night. Or when he began his career. One of those. Though acutally, I thought the Puffy Diet Pepsi — what a terrible flavor that would be — was good. However, since I couldn’t recognize half of the people in the ad, I realize now that I am so far removed from the nation’s cultural touchstones that I might as well be frozen in a block of ice.
PM: Exactly. I don’t need Pepsi to remind me that I’m unhip. I can look in the mirror to do that.
SL: Funny concept, nice commentary on celebrity culture, only marginally tainted by the presence of Carson Daly.
PM: You want to talk weird uses of celebrity? What about that Cosentino Silestone commercial with Jim McMahon, Mike Ditka, William Perry, and Dennis Rodman proclaiming their love for Diana Pearl countertops?
JS: I was kind of expecting the real Diana Pearl to appear and electrocute Rodman as he bathed.
PM: And the affinity credit card ad with Gladys Knight! Inexplicable!
JS: That’s an example of corporate ego. Who really cares that MBNA is a leader in selling credit cards to crazed fans?
PM: MBNA sure does.
JS: Inside baseball — the worst kind of Super Bowl ad. Instead, let us spend a few moments praising the use of chimpanzees in commercials. Even if CareerBuilder.com insists on calling them monkeys. Did anyone else notice that the name of the guy’s company was YEKNOM?
LS: I did. I also wondered if the guy wound up getting a new job.
PM: Did he ever manage to escape his monkey employers through the grace of CareerBuilder.com, or is he still working for the monkey Man?
JS: And really, who among us does not feel that he or she works with a collection of ant-eating, chest-beating primates?
SL: I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a meeting and been hit square in the chest with a steaming lump of thrown poo.
PM: Now, if it’s possible to do a monkey ad and fail, then Verizon pulled it off. Because when I first saw the monkey aping the “Can You hear me now?” business, I thought it was an ad where a competitor making fun of Verizon. “Ha, ha — Verizon’s a bunch of chimps! Oh wait… this is for Verizon. Uh…”
JS: Don’t forget Verizon’s coup de grace, the ad with a tiny Shaq.
LS: The shrinking ad? That was creepy. Although it was the second Christina Aguilera appearance of the evening. Who would have thought that one day, she’d look presentable and that Britney Spears would morph into a syphilitic wreck?
JS: Talk about taking a vaguely amusing premise and wringing the last bit of cleverness out it until it was just a boring, mirthless exercise in celebrity walk-throughs. All it needed was the part where they injected Shaq, Christina, and Kid Rock into a guy’s bloodstream to fight disease.
SL: Any ad that claims that the ability to send pictures over your cell phone is going to change the world should be dismissed without consideration.
PM: A couple other celebrity cameos worth mention — first, M.C. Hammer in the Lays potato chips spot.
JS: Remember kids, if anyone ever throws M.C. Hammer at you, throw him back. Catch and release. I actually didn’t like Hammer’s appearance. It seemed so obvious and thrown in. All he did was stand up and lip sync to “U Can’t Touch This.”
SL: What? How can you not love “You’re not supposed to touch this?”
JS: I was hoping for something truly funny from Hammer. Actual dialogue or something. Then they throw him over the fence.
SL: The implication that Hammer’s career didn’t implode but, rather, that he just inadvertently rolled into some crusty old man’s yard is delightful.
JS: I guess I just wanted a little bit more from Hammer.
SL: We’ve all had that feeling at one time or another.
JS: It’s good to see Hammer’s still got the gold pants, though.
SL: I would have liked to see the guy with the pyramid hair, too, but I guess Hammer lost him in the bankruptcy settlement.
PM: Speaking of pop culture curiosities we thought we were rid of, looks like Baby Bob is back.
LS: The Quiznos ad — creepy! Especially since the woman in the ad seemed interested in Baby Bob in, shall we say, a less than nuturing way. Quiznos — the sandwich shop of choice for would-be pedophiles.
JS: I can’t say that Baby Bob is worse than those Spongmonkey ads Quiznos ahs been running…
LS: I love the Spongmonkeys! Big joy is in our hearts!
JS: … they’re both horrific and make me wish to burn down every Quiznos I see. Which is something, since I walk past at least two on my way home from work each night.
LS: What does it say that I can recall more details about the Spongmonkeys than any ad I saw Sunday?
JS: But if you’re going to do a goddamned Baby Bob ad, at least make the mouth effect look like you spent more than 10 bucks. The “Clutch Cargo” mouth on Conan O’Brien looks more realistic.
PM: The thing that irritates me about Baby Bob’s return — besides his return itself — is who exactly is the target audience for that ad? The 14 people who wept their eyes out the night Baby Bob got canceled? The young people who have made Baby Bob a folk icon alongside Tupac and Biggie?
LS: My late grandmother would have loved Baby Bob.
PM: Do you think the ad would persuade her to eat at Quiznos?
LS: Well, not now. Late grandmother, remember?
PM: So senior citizens. And as you already mentioned, pedophiles. Those are two overlapping demographics.
JS: I can’t believe nobody has talked about the Emerald Nuts commercial, because it mixes some of the classic Super Bowl ad elements. Clever integration of odd concepts like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Parents being cruel to their children. Comedy gold! Or so they think.
LS: I always enjoy the Emerald Nuts commercials. “Evil navigators! Egotistical Normans!” The branding strategy they have going on is amazing. Planters is all about the traditional nuts, but Emerald Nuts — they’re the zany nut people.
JS: I enjoyed it, but I don’t really like ads whose premise is, “Our product is so great it will cause you to do morally objectionable things, like scar your children emotionally.”
SL: Agreed. And I thought both Santa and the Easter Bunny looked crappy and sort of frightening.
PM: It’s funny how the parents in this discussion were both disturbed by the ad, while the childless people aare all, “Traumatizing kids? Ha!” Speaking of Jason’s theory about “Our product is so great that it makes people do moronic things,” I liked the Bud Light skydiving commercial where the pilot dives out of the plane to go after the beer. But I hated nearly everything else that Anheuser Busch threw our way. Including, but not limited to, the troops ad.
SL: When your other primary message is “Horse farts are funny!,” “God Bless the Troops” somehow doesn’t resonate as much.
PM: Exactly my point, Steve.
JS: If I may speak about Cedric the Entertainer for a few moments…
JS: …if I see another ad where women are portrayed as shrill, shrieking harpies…
PM: … then you’ll have been watching sports on TV?
JS: … then I will have to kill somebody. Let’s put it this way. If you can’t stand having two hot women next to you because you feel women tend to be nags, you should be sent away to an island with only a barbecue and a dog to keep you company. Once the meat on the grill runs out, considering that there are also no women on the island, you’re going to have to make a really tough choice about that Dog, Cedric.
SL: Are you suggesting that if he had a woman around, he could have cooked her?
JS: Now that’s an ad I’d pay to see.
SL: Or that he’d have to resort to humping the dog?
JS: It’s all in the eye of the beholder, my man.
PM: Some of the poorer efforts from Sunday: the Ford Mustang commercial where the guy freezes to death, the McDonald’s ad about the french fry that looked like Lincoln, the pedestrian GoDaddy.com ad…
JS: I appreciate that they tried to satirize Janet Jackson. But it wasn’t that funny. And it was clearly cheap and crappy.
PM: Then there was the Degree ad, the one about making risky choices like which deodorant to wear.
SL: That stank.
JS: It reeked of desperation.
PM: You know what I look for in a deodorant/anti-perspirant? 1) Will it mask my odor? 2) Will it prevent the armpits of my shirt from looking like I’ve been dipped in a jacuzzi? You know the question I don’t want to ask? Say, what’s with these leisons? Because, that’s what I think of when I think of risky underarm protection.
JS: Also, any ad that resorts to using “wuss” is out of ideas.
LS: Oh, but what if it was monkeys saying wuss?
SL: I have to say this for the Ford ads: it’s nice to see a car company doing something other than “See car. See car drive. Drive car drive.” Even if both the Mustang and the Ford Truck ads were not particularly inspired.
PM: Like the Honda truck spot. “We’ve reinvented the truck!” No you haven’t. It’s got four wheels, an engine… that’s pretty much a truck.
JS: It’s a truck… from Honda!
PM: Unless the thing has three wheels and is powered by potatoes, it’s more or less the same old same old.
JS: To me, Honda represents tiny, little cars that last a long time and are slightly more expensive than crappier, tiny, little cars. So… this truck is like a Honda how?
SL: Because it’s snub-nosed and goofy-looking.
JS: I loved the Vin Diesel career snapshot we saw courtesy of two movie ads. Vin Diesel: in a crappy comedy called The Pacifier. Ice Cube: Got Vin Diesel’s role in XXX 2. Vin Diesel’s agent: fired.
PM: Vin Diesel
LS: Which car company had the car-in-space business?
JS: Ford and Volvo. That one gets the Special Jury prize for use of Stock Footage. What’s the over-under on Ford and Volvo renaming themselves as Forvo?
PM: Or Vord.
JS: Vord Folvo!
PM: Which sounds like a Vin Diesel character. Vin Diesel is Vord Folvo in My Bald, Talentless Nanny.
Greg Knauss Sorry I’m late.
SL: Hey, it’s Greg.
PM: Nice of you to drop in for the wrap up.
GK: I trust the whole monkey discussion has already taken place.
JS: Of course.
SL: That’s all right. The great thing about monkeys is you can talk about them again and again.
PM: Jason, of course, has already weighed in elsewhere on the Napster ad and its Web of lies.
GK: Beyond the lies, it was just a plain bad ad. A title card for 20 seconds? It’s TV, not a magazine fer chrisakes.
SL: Any ad that makes you read and occurs after halftime is destined to fail.
JS: Don’t get me started on the use of that cat character. Because as we all know, Napster was a big hit and became a huge brand because of its loveable cat character. And not because of the free music downloads.
PM: Shall we name our top three and bottom three? My favorites were: 1. CareerBuilder.com. 2. FedEx. 3. Those Ameriquest ads about not jumping to conclusions. The bottom three: 1. GoDaddy.com. 2. Risky deodorant. 3. McDonald’s and that goddamn french fry.
GK: “Our fries taste like the dessicated corpse of our 16th president!”
PM: “And this filet o’ fish bears a vague resemblance to John Wilkes Boothe.”
LS: Top three: Ameriquest, CareerBuilder, Emerald Nuts. Bottom three: The Cedric spots, Budweiser’s cheap patriotic pop, and Quiznos.
JS: Top three: 1. Fed Ex with Burt Reynolds. 2. CareerBuilder’s monkeys. 3. Ameriquest’s cell phone jackass getting maced. Bottom three: 1. Quiznos and Baby Bob. 2. Napster. 3. Verizon Tiny Shaq and Other Tiny Celebrities I Have Known. Oh, and a Special Jury Prize to the Tabasco ad. It was long and dull, but the fact that the girl was burned under her swimsuit was one I didn’t see coming. Plus, she was really hot.
SL: Top three: 1. FedEx/Kinko’s 2. Lay’s MC Hammer 3. American Idol NFL dudes. Bottom three: 1. Budweiser 2. Budweiser 3. Budweiser. Number three just narrowly beat out Budweiser.
JS: Greg, any last words?
GK: This is how most parties end after I show up: quickly.
Additional contributions to this article by: Jason Snell, Philip Michaels, Lisa Schmeiser, Greg Knauss, Steve Lutz.
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