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Super Bowl 2013: Great game, lame ads (though 'Walking Dead' still rules)

February 03, 2013|By Mary McNamara | This post has been corrected. See below for details.
  • Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy following their 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens holds the Vince Lombardi… (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty…)

So enough with the whole "more people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials than for the game" nonsense.

With brothers — John and Jim Harbaugh — facing off as coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, respectively, and plays including a record 108-yard run by Raven Jacoby Jones followed almost instantly by a blackout in the New Orleans Superdome, this year's Super Bowl was one of the most exciting in recent memory. First perpetual dark-horse Baltmore took an early lead, then Beyonce blew out the house with a high-voltage show that cranked up the value of halftime real estate for years to come and reminded everyone what "it's got legs" means. Then, after a 35-minute power outage, the lights came back on and San Francisco scored 17 points in four minutes.

Suddenly, the commercials didn't seem to matter so much. Good thing too, because they were pretty lame.

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Better than your average night on network television, certainly, but by Super Bowl standards, decidedly low-wattage. Where other years boasted Jerry Seinfeld, Cindy Crawford, Matthew Broderick, or (time, time, go back in thy flight), Dave and Oprah cuddling on the couch, this year we got Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and a strangely unfunny Seth Rogen-Paul Rudd spot. Yes, there was unexpected tear-duct targeting by Budweiser with a "War Horse" Lite spot following the love between man and his Clydesdale. The new "Star Trek" movie does look awesome, Amy Poehler rocked her Best Buy spot as a ditzy shopper testing the merchandise — "Where is the cloud? Are we in the cloud?" — and the screaming Doritos goat was pretty hilarious. But there was also a Scientology ad, which was just plain weird, and possibly the grossest kiss in television history, between Bar Refaeli and an overweight splotchy faced-nerd, courtesy of godaddy.com.

It was just one of a squirm-provoking amount of wish-fulfillment kisses that occurred Sunday night; both Audi and Mercedes suggested that the simple act of driving their cars guarantee instant access to hot women. Wow, that's a new idea. And don't get me started on the Calvin Klein underwear ad — who is that for anyway? Don't say "the ladies" because we were either busy carving up game-themed cupcakes into calorie-conscious pieces before eating them all or waiting on Beyonce. Last year, it was at least Beckham in the tight whities; we'd skip the cupcakes for Beckham.

That was the problem, overall — it was just a bunch of ads we've already seen before. Ray Lewis may be over-exposed, but not like those giant M&Ms with their Mickey Mouse hands, or heaven help us, PSY and his Gangham style, here shilling for pistachios. The great cookie versus creme Oreo debate is also way past its shelf date, and though it's admirable to learn that Jared Fogle has kept those pesky 245 pounds off for 15 years, I think we have moved past the idea of Subway as a weight-reduction system.

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Finally, though it pains me to say it, the E-trade baby might want to consider retirement options. Even Betty White took this year off.

There is always a "serious" commercial or two — last year, Clint Eastwood narrated a memorable tribute to the auto industry. This year there were two — a tribute, courtesy of Jeep and Oprah, to our armed forces, and a paean to the American farmer, from Dodge Ram, voiced by conservative radio icon Paul Harvey. As touching as both were, particularly amid all the slick and smoochy spots, there is something tiresome about ad execs suddenly remembering corn- and rust-belt Americans once every 12 months (twice, if its an election year).

As the game grew more and more tense, with Baltimore unable to score and solidify its lead and San Francisco never quite catching up, a miracle occurred — the event actually overtook the merchandising. When a game is that good and that close, commercial breaks are there for one reason: to get food or go to the bathroom. Even the most lavishly produced fade in the glare of the thrill and the agony.

Except one. Not only did the Time Warner ad pay homage to "The Walking Dead" a truly clever way — a multi-tasking mom cleaning up after her kids and their zombie friends — it featured an appearance by Norman Reedus as Daryl.

And even the Harbaugh brothers have to bow before Daryl.

[For the Record, 1:21 p.m. PST Feb. 4: An earlier version of this online post reported that according to a Subway commercial, Mike Trout had lost and kept off 245 pounds. Trout, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels, appeared in a Subway commercial, but the ad in question attributed the weight loss to Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.]

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