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Watch Me XL

According to rough estimates by AC Nielsen and Company, roughly 7 billion Americans will be watching Super Bowl XLI on CBS this Sunday. (Editor's Note: That 7 billion figure was selected at random, as we are too lazy to look things up.) So what better use of energy than to chronicle all the things those people won't be watching while their eyes are affixed on the Colts-Bears throwdown?

The Broadcast Channels

After the obligatory Simpsons rerun at 7 p.m. -- really, Fox could never air another original episode of The Simpsons again, and it might take us years to find out -- Fox treats us to X2: X-Men United, the casually-paced, overly loud middle installment of the X-Men trilogy.

After trotting out Extreme Makeover and America's Funniest Home Videos repeats -- the Mouse Ear's moral equivalent of Simpsons' reruns -- it's time for a 9 p.m. showing of Old School -- the sort of movie aimed squarely at the kind of people who will be watching Peyton Manning and Brian Urlacher over on CBS.

NBC figures you'll want to watch four solid hours of Grease: You're the One That I Want repeats beginning at 7 p.m. NBC figures wrong. But not nearly so wrong as the CW which turns to a three-hour Beauty and the Geek marathon to make that dull, stabbing pain in your right temple just a little bit more acute.

The Cable Networks

As always, the sports channels are giving up the ghost on Super Bowl Sunday. After a 12:30 p.m. PT Dog Show, ESPN features five hours of figure skating. (ESPN Classic offers "classic" figure skating -- in which "classic" is defined as "post-2004 footage we happen to have on hand" -- from 10 a.m PT through 5 p.m.) ESPN2 may be dropping the numeral from its name -- that's going to cause some confusion -- but it remains your one-stop shop for World's Strongest Man coverage, beginning at 1:30 p.m. PT and wrapping up long after celebratory riots have consumed the cities of Chicago and/or Indianapolis. Versus, the channel formerly known as Outdoor Life offers alternating showings of the 2007 Dakar Rally and Bull Riding, presumably for an audience who finds football a trifle too mainstream for its tastes.

Other channels respond to the prospect of a Super Bowl by trotting out a marathon of programs and then heading over to a local bar to watch the game themselves. Such is the case at E!; at 2 p.m., the network offers five straight installments of 101 Even Bigger Celebrity Oops!, which I am almost sure is just a random combination of words jammed together to mask the creative desperation.

TNT hands things over to The Closer starting at 11 a.m. -- it apparently takes The Closer 12 hours to wrap things up. USA also devotes half the day to Monk reruns, though Adrian Monk gets a one-hour jump on The Closer with a 10 a.m. start time.

On the Sci-Fi Channel, Ghost Hunters begin looking for spooks and specters at 9 a.m. on Sunday; those phantoms must be hard to find, as the Ghost Hunters plan to keep at it until back-to-back episodes of The Dresden Files start at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, CourtTV features eight episodes of Forensic Files starting at 6 p.m.

The Hallmark Channel has six episodes of Little House on the Prairie beginning at noon. It would take me until 8 p.m. that evening just to contemplate the majesty of Michael Landon's hair. On the other hand, 12 hours of What Not to Wear (The Learning Channel) feels like 11 hours and 59 minutes too much if you ask me; then again, I'm not the target audience for this block of programming beginning at 2 p.m. I was also not aware that there was enough information on knitting to fill one half-hour program, let alone 10-and-a-half hours; nevertheless, DIY has a Knitty Gritty marathon starting at 1:30 p.m.

After hastening the decline of Western Civilization from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Surreal Life Fame Games, VH-1 goes for the kill shot with four episodes of the execrable I Love New York at 6:30 p.m. SpikeTV would rather we focus our hatred on our four-legged friends with back-to-back episodes of When Animals Attack (4 p.m.) followed by a doubleheader of When Good Pets Go Bad (6 p.m.).

You know who everyone wants to spend the Super Bowl with? Paula Deen. What -- you don't want to? Well, then better not tell the Food Network, which is airing seven hours of Paula's Party (starting at 2 p.m.) featuring the down-home gourmand. Speaking of food, if you're serving any at your Super Bowl Party, you are advised to avoid surfing past the Discovery Channel between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m. when sure-to-be-stomach-churning episodes of Surgery Saved My Life are airing.

After a spate of comedies aimed at chicks and people who hate laughter -- Father of the Bride at 11 a.m., its piteous sequel at 1 p.m., and Legally Blonde at 3 p.m. -- TBS offers six-and-a-half hours of My Boys, an actually sitcom about a woman who enjoys hanging out with guys and watching sports. ("But won't women who enjoy hanging out with guys and watching sports be watching the Super Bowl instead of this virtually unheard of show?" you ask. Shut up, TBS responds.)

Also unclear on the concept of effective counter-programming is ABC's Family Channel which stares down the biggest sporting event of the year with movies about... sports. Granted, one's a film about ice skating (The Cutting Edge 2: Going for the Gold at 4 p.m.) and the other asks you to believe that Freddie Prinze Jr. can throw an effective split-fingered fastball (Summer Catch at 6 p.m.), but still, who are you trying to get to tune in here? People who hate sports so much that they want to watch Freddie Prinze Jr. play sports in a not-very-convincing fashion? I would like to read your internal memos defending this decision, please.

BBCAmerica knows who will be channel-surfing on Sunday, however. It starts showing Footballers Wives at 10 a.m. and does not let up until the whistle sounds in Miami.

BET offers two marathons on one day -- you can watch four episodes The Wayans Brothers starting at 3 p.m. followed by four episodes of The Jamie Foxx Show at 5 p.m. That's probably four more episodes of each show than you watched when both were on network TV. A&E -- no arts, very little entertainment -- follows suit with four episodes of King of Cars at noon, followed by six hours of Cold Case Files at 2 p.m. TVLand goes with a one-two punch of westerns: three hours of Bonanza at 1 p.m. and four hours of Gunsmoke at 4 p.m.

It's a not a marathon per se, but anytime you read an episode description of Beverly Hills 90210 (5 p.m., Soap Opera Channel) that begins, "Dylan has a jet-ski accident," attention must be paid.

Bravo is all over the map on Sunday, starting with five hours of The Real Housewives of Orange County at noon, a repeat broadcast of its latest Project Runway-knockoff Top Design at 5 p.m., and eight hours of Law & Order: Criminal Intent at 6 p.m. Know what all those shows have in common? They're all on Bravo.

The Biography Channel starts showing Poirot movies at 7 a.m. Sunday morning and doesn't stop until the wee small hours of Monday. The Cartoon Network goes for a more animated mystery-solver with a series of Scooby Doo specials airing from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Don't try any funny stuff promoting these Scooby Doo specials, Cartoon Network. We've got our eye on you.)

In lieu of compelling counter-programming, just trot out whatever movies you happen to have in your tape library. That seems to be the operating theory over at FX, where The Stepford Wives (4:30 p.m.) gives way at 6:30 p.m. to all three-and-a-half-hours of The Green Mile. Things are much more dire at Comedy Central where the edited-to-ribbons edition of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (3:30 p.m) leads into the can't-be-truncated-enough airing of My Boss's Daughter (5:30 p.m.), followed by the I-must-have-been-sick-the-one-day-this-was-in-theaters broadcast of The Sweetest Thing (7:30 p.m.)

AMC -- the "C" no longer stands for "Classic" -- offers Romancing the Stone at 4:15 p.m. (sort of a classic), Lake Placid at 6:15 p.m. (not at all a classic), and Ladder 49 at 8 p.m (what -- are you kidding me?).

On IFC, enjoy The Cooler -- the single worst movie I have watched in the last five years -- at 6 p.m. That's followed at 7:50 p.m. by Jerry and Tom -- if you tune in expecting to see the antics of a cat and mouse, you will be bitterly disappointed.

Nothing delights me more than seeing what women-in-peril counter-programming the folks at Lifetime trot out opposite the Super Bowl. I'm a little disappointed with this year's offerings...

Dawn Anna: A woman (Debra Winger) who recently survived a near-fatal illness must contend with her child's death in the Columbine shootings. (3 p.m.)

The Good Girl: A small-town Texas Wife (Jennifer Aniston) who wants more out of life becomes infatuated with a new co-worker. (5 p.m.)

Bastard Out of Carolina: An illegitimate child endures increasing sadistic beating from her mother's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) second husband in the '50s south. (7 p.m.)

Enough with the quality flicks starring respected actresses, Lifetime -- where are the movies about women standing strong after undergoing the heartbreak of bigamy? Where are the made-for-TV offerings featuring Markie Post or Marg Helgenberger or Mel Harris? Where are the Mother, May I Sleep with Dangers? For shame, Lifetime -- this is your counter-programming lollapalooza and you blew it. Take a cue from your sister channel, Lifetime Movie Network, which is showing tripe like The Only Witness ("A girl's life is in danger after she witnesses a murder that may be part of a conspiracy."), and A Matter of Justice ("The mother of a slain Marine tries to find her son's killer and gain custody of her only grandchild.") That's women in peril, baby.

Oxygen gets the counter-programming concept. They're showing Beaches, once at 5 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. Now there's a movie no one with an XY chromosome sequence would want to watch.

Ah, but the grand prize for Super Bowl counter-programming genius goes once again to Animal Planet. For the third year in a row, the cable channel is airing Puppy Bowl, three hours of footage of adorable doggies frolicking with chew toys aired on a continuous loop from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. It's the Super Bowl Sunday equivalent of the televised yule log.


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