Who can deny the aggregate charms of aggressive men in stretch pants, abstruse ads for office supply stores (the old standbys) and Bob Dole's Little Helpers (new brands!), and Vegas-style halftime extravaganzas? Not many, which is why the Super Bowl, that big, brazen burlesque of an annual sporting event, usually averages around 90 million viewers a year.
Some, however, are immune to its singular allure, and yet can't bear the thought of tearing themselves away from the TV for just one day. For those who would skip it, but not go so far as to venture outdoors, the other networks graciously provide plenty of counter-programming. Go ahead and skip it. The Patriots and the Panthers will go on without you. Janet Jackson will manage. Ditto P. Diddy. Kid Rock will rock on. They'll be OK. You, it's hard to say.
NBC: This year, the Peacock has programmed with the conscientious objector in mind, scheduling a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" marathon against a Straight Guys Left to Their Own Devices fest. If only CBS and NBC had found a way to combine the two. That would have been something.
PBS: Public television challenges the Super Bowl to a duel with "The Washington Opera Celebration," an "operatic sampler" featuring some "patriotic favorites" sung by Placido Domingo, Three Mo' Tenors and Denyce Graves. (Kid Rock had a prior engagement.)
IFC: The Coen Brothers' 1991 classic "Barton Fink" is on. This thriller starring John Turturro as a pretentious playwright in 1940s Hollywood should give you pause. Also stars John Goodman. He'll show you the life of the mind. (Judy Davis, Michael Lerner and John Mahoney also turn up.)
LIFETIME: How does spending the afternoon watching this channel sound? Still there? Then you'll definitely enjoy Danielle Steel's "Family Album," a four-hour extravaganza starring Jaclyn Smith and Michael Ontkean. Marital discord-orama!
VH1: "Mariah: The Complete History." That's right, unabridged. And if you can take it, follow it up with Beyonce in "Driven."
SCI FI: "Wishmaster III: Beyond the Gates of Hell." Part of the other all-day gore-fest that doesn't feature Mariah.
TCM: Another Mariah alternative: the original "Psycho," starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. In those days, it never occurred to anyone that Norman Bates might have been suffering from exhaustion.
SPIKE TV: For the guy who only buys Sports Illustrated once a year, there's "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2000," a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 37th swimsuit issue. Damon Wayans hosts; models speak. Informative and athletic-ish-esque-whatever.
STYLE: Because a little Melissa Rivers is never, ever enough, the Style network reruns the Golden Globes red carpet fashion critique known as "Style: Live From the Red Carpet." This should tide you over until the Grammys. If not, surely it will be repeated again.
TECHTV: There's something called "Nerd Nation" on TechTV. Intrigued? Don't fight it.
SUNDANCE: ... and the prize for the most brilliantly perverse bit of counter-programming ever goes to this channel, which airs Chris Marker's "La Jetee." A 1962 meditation on time, reality, travel and nuclear war, this French short is made entirely of still photographs. Sports fans, set your TiVos.
ENCORE: If you want to cut loose, footloose, and kick off your Sunday shoes ... well, you know where to go. (Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest get down.)
FOOD: The Food Network features "Paula's Home Cooking" marathon, kicking it off with an episode called "Racing Car Dishes." Learn how to make beer biscuits, sweet-potato chips and chocolate-almond pie, and how to style your mullet.
FX: Hey, look! A "Cops" marathon! You know what those bad boys are gonna do. Now if only you had some beer biscuits.
HALLMARK: What if you spent Super Bowl Sunday watching back-to-back episodes of "Little House on the Prairie"? Would you tell anyone? What if one was called "Be My Friend" and Laura finds an abandoned baby in it? We dare you.
ESPN: Football isn't the only sport, OK? There is also, for instance, figure skating -- which for some reason decided that today would be a good day to hold its U.S. Championships.
KTLA: Here's your chance to catch "Ernest Goes to Camp," in which our hero, a dimwitted fellow named Ernest, attends camp.
TRIO: Watch deranged Phish, Dolly Parton and surfing fans go nuts in the parking lot. OK, they're not really deranged. They don't even seem all that excited, really. Politely enthusiastic is more like it. Courteously keen. Respectfully ardent, in a restrained sort of way. Wait a minute, why isn't Trio at the Super Bowl?
If you must: On Sunday, CBS will broadcast the NFL Super Bowl, which pits the New England Patriots against the Carolina Panthers.
* The "Super Bowl Today" show starts at 11 a.m.
* Pregame is 3 p.m.
* Kickoff is at approximately 3:25 p.m.