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Watch Me XXXIX

I said this last year about this time and wound up looking like a dope, but since looking like a dope is my default setting, I'll say it again: today's Super Bowl is likely not to be very watchable.

Oh sure, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles could turn in a memorable contest for the ages, just like the Pats and Carolina Panthers did last year. Or, more than likely, the game will be a by-the-numbers, forgettable affair decided just before halftime.

Not that the rest of the Super Sunday spectacle offers much incentive to tune in. The Fox pre-game show -- in its 73rd hour on the air as I type this -- promises to be a bloated, information-free parade of gasbaggery. And prolonged exposure to the collective insights and intellects of both Terry Bradshaw and Gillian Barberie does not figure to be good for your long-term mental health. Thanks to this country's growing experimentation with theocracy, the halftime spectacular figures to be bland and watered-down, so as not to offend the delicate sensitivities of pearl-clutching Red Staters. They're turning the stage over to Paul McCartney for chrissakes -- the most boring, embarrassing, and creatively bereft Beatle, which is saying something considering that Ringo is still in the mix. The post-game airing of The Simpsons figures to be hit-and-miss, as The Simpsons usually are these days, and I think I liked Seth McFarlane's American Dad series better when it was called Family Guy.

Yes, indeedy -- not much cause to participate in America's biggest secular holiday at all. So why not watch something else instead?

Ah, but what to watch? Well, that's why I'm here, friend -- to provide you a list of Super Bowl-alternatives (all times Pacific, naturally) should the sight of another Boston-based sports franchise prove to be as hateful to you as it is to me.

You won't get much help from the other networks, which, facing Fox's two-fisted assault of a Super Bowl telecast and a Simpsons-led post-game schedule, are opting to fight fire with reruns. CBS features a three hour block of NCIS, Cold Case and Without a Trace starting at 8 p.m. NBC trots out three consecutive hours of its Law & Order franchise -- we'll leave it to you to figure out which spinoffs air when -- while ABC curls up and dies with repeats of America's Funniest Home Videos, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Desperate Housewives. Meanwhile, over on the WB, there appear to be two installments of Summerland -- the Frog Network apparently figuring that folks into wispy dramas about attractive young people are not going to be over-concerned about whether Tom Brady and his mates can establish themselves a modern-day football dynasty.

So the networks are running scared. Again. Thank God our good friend cable is able to step up to the plate.

A few channels are going with football-themed offerings. Animal Planet is turning its schedule over to The Puppy Bowl (noon to midnight): they're dogs -- and they're playing football. If real football games sound too interesting for your taste, there's always Angels in the Endzone (WGN, 5 p.m. PT), a movie featuring a fake, uninteresting football game, with Christopher Lloyd appearing as one the Heavenly Hosts, no less. And Brett Favre may not be in Jacksonville for Super Bowl XXXIX, but he will be on F/X for a sure to be heavily edited airing of There's Something About Mary (5 p.m.). On the West Coast, that's preceded by two hours of King of the Hill episodes (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.), raising the question of whether anyone employed by F/X sees the inherent contradiction in scheduling a mini-marathon of a show about a football-obsessed Texan opposite of the biggest football game of the year. Get your head in the game, nameless F/X employee!

Speaking of marathons, cable channels will be featuring plenty of those today, just in case you're all Terrell Ownes'ed-out. Freed from the rigors of planning terrible halftime shows, MTV devotes its attention to a four-hour Viva La Bam marathon (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.), which I assume is some sort of show about lousy, no-good punk kids. USA gives us a marathon of a slightly better show -- five hours of Monk, beginning at 6 p.m. -- and the chance to watch Bitty Schram fade away before our very eyes as her role as Monk's helpmate is usurped by Traylor Howard. If grisly crime documentaries are your thing, there's always eight hours of The Investigators starting at noon over on Court TV. TVLand has a four-pack of Gunsmoke episodes (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) from 1974, which, for those of you who care about such things, was the same year that the Miami Dolphins crushed the Minnesota Vikings 24 to 7 in Super Bowl VIII.

You know who really hates football? Witches. Fortunately, they'll have nine hours of Charmed episodes on TNT beginning at 2 p.m. to divert them. (And bookended by showings of The Craft at noon and 11 p.m., no less.)

TLC continues to mine its "Trading Spaces" franchise -- fellas, you're just scraping the walls of the shaft for pyrite at this point -- with Trading Spaces: Unglued at 5 p.m. This blooper-and-outtake show presumably does not feature the rumored Paige Davis sex tape. That's followed at 6 p.m. by Best of Trading Spaces, featuring the most memorable moments from 2004. (If you're lucky, maybe this does featuring the rumored Paige Davis sex tape.) Speaking of home decorating pornography shows, apparently A&E hasn't gotten the memo that that particular genre is played out: it's schedule two episodes each of Sell This House! and Find & Design beginning at 5 p.m.

It's a Paula Deen marathon over on the Food Network, with seven episodes of Paula's Home Cooking commencing at 2:30 p.m., followed by Paula's Southern BBQ (6 p.m.) and Paula Dean's Wedding! at 7 p.m. Note: you are advised not to spend the entire five-and-a-half hours of the Paula Dean marathon sampling her assorted recipes without a crash cart within arm's length.

E!, which will never be confused with television for rocket scientists (unless you're talking about rocket scientists who are particularly dim and somewhat obsessed with Jessica Simpson's comings goings), has a double marathon of vapidity. First Up is 101 Most Sensational Crimes of Fashion (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) -- my vote goes to that time Pol Pot wore white in the Killing Fields after Labor Day. Then there's 101 Most Starlicious Makeovers (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.). I would like it entered into the record that typing "starlicious" just now has made me measurably stupider than I was a minute ago. Thanks, E!.

Spike TV finds itself in a quandary. The self-proclaimed First Network for Men -- at last, a refuge from all the chick-centric programming on my television these days -- realizes that its target audience might be just a tad preoccupied this afternoon. So it's striking back with the one thing this year's Super Bowl is guaranteed not to feature -- boobs. Behold, the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue videos from 2002 (2 p.m.), 2003 (3 p.m.), and 2004 (4 p.m.). Curiously enough, VH-1 -- which is really more like The First Network for Pop Culture Obsessed Simpletons -- is also going to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue well with five hours of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search, starting at 1 p.m.

Looking to do a 180-degree turn from the Super Bowl? Bravo trots out the obligatory Queer Eye for the Straight Guy counter-programming push from 2 p.m. 10 p.m. Meanwhile, TBS throws the women-folk a bone with the kind of movies one can assume are not normally shown to fire up the players the night before the Big Game: Fried Green Tomatoes (9:30 a.m.), As Good as it Gets (12:30 p.m.), What Women Want (3:30 p.m.), and Serendipity (6 p.m.). Speaking of insipid programming for women, Lifetime is hoping that you ladies are still hepped up about Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onasis, since it's broadcasting the four-hour miniseries of the same name starting at 1 p.m.

Movie marathons, in fact, are all the rage for some cable channels on Super Sunday. Turner Classic Movie's month-long Oscar Salute continues with Intermezzo (3:45 p.m. PT) and The Uninvited (5 p.m. PT). By the time the Patriots are undoubtedly hoisting another Lombardi Trophy, Portrait of Jennie will be well underway (7 p.m. PT). Comedy Central decides to shirk its normal mission of delivering laughter to the masses for the day with a trio of painfully unfunny comedies: 40 Days and 40 Nights (4 p.m.), Saving Silverman (6 p.m.), and The Sweetest Thing (8 p.m.). And the Sci-Fi Channel airs Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (9 a.m.), Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (11 a.m.), and Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled (1 p.m.), but not the original Wishmaster. I mean, how are we supposed to pick up the subtle intricacies of the narrative without the first chapter of this saga? It's like the Sci-Fi Channel is going out of its way to antagonize its lonely nerd audience.

Back before the Olsen twins were regular tabloid fodder, they made a series of movies in which they rampaged through Europe: Passport to Paris, Winning London, and, of course, When in Rome, the Citizen Kane of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies. Now you can sample all three on the ABC Family Channel at 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m., and recall a simpler time in our nation's history.

Even the dullest of Super Bowl blowouts should not drive you to watch Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche match wits with a Volcano (5:45 p.m) over on AMC.

You know who I really bad for on Super Sunday? Sports fans who for one reason another just can't abide football. Because they turn to ESPN in the hour of need, looking for sweet succor from the drudgery of the Super Bowl, and what do they get? Figure Skating, (12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. PT) followed by the 2004 Double Dutch Jump Rope Championship (6:30 p.m. PT). I mean, why not just air test patterns? ESPN2 at least bothers to dig up the 2004 World Series of Poker tapes (3 p.m. to 9 p.m. PT), so you watch Greg Raymer win for the 56th time. Only 73 more airings to go before these episodes are banished to ESPNClassic, so catch 'em while you can! Poker addicts can also catch The World Poker Tour over on the Travel Channel from 8 a.m. to midnight, incidentally.

I don't know about you, but if the game begins to drag in the second half, I'm flipping over to British House of Commons at 6 p.m. PT on CSPAN, since nobody trash talks like members of Parliament.


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