Despite high expectations, TV’s biggest event didn’t bowl us over.
Super Bowl XLVIII was the highest rated event in the history of television, meaning that a lot of people who don’t watch football on a regular basis were watching. While we don’t know this year’s numbers yet, but the average musical performances, (mostly) underwhelming commercials, and stilted game probably left many viewers feel a little cheated.
Not everyone was able to see the full event, however, so here is PopMatters’ recap of what happened when.
FOX technically started the official pregame show at 2 PM EST, but that was just four hours of interviews and commentary. Unless you needed to be reminded about last year’s power outage or learn that this was the first time the championship was played on Groundhog Day, you didn’t miss anything here.
Queen Latifah’s performance of “God Bless America” was the actual kick-off to the festivities. Her almost-acapella version was tasteful and traditional, with few vocal pyrotechnics.
Actor Kurt Russell starred in videos about each team before their introductions. The Denver Broncos had a white horse leading the charge, while the Seattle Seahawks had a trained hawk in their entourage.
Opera soprano Renee Fleming may not be a household name, but she gave a flawless performance of our national anthem. She was joined by the Armed Forces choir and a well-timed fireworks display.
Hall of famer Joe Namath flipped the coin before anyone picked heads or tails. A very nervous referee caught it in mid-air and asked for Seattle’s pick. The second flip came up tails, meaning Seattle won. Since there was no coin toss promotion from Papa John’s this year, few people in the audience cared.
The game started quicker than any Super Bowl before it, with a two-point score on the Seahawks behalf. This is when things stopped getting interesting, as an endless stream of safeties, fouls, technicalities, challenges, and incompletions led to a stilted game with many commercial breaks. The score was Seahawks 8, Broncos 0.
Among the best ads were MetLife’s “America” as played by Peanuts characters, Chevy’s cute salute to cow dating, and Radio Shack’s salute to the 1980s.
However, most of the night’s commercials were big, epic wastes of time. For example, Maserati had an extremely long one that involved tornadoes, ballerinas, and a kid’s semi-inspirational narration.
With star quarterback Peyton Manning barely on the field at this point, Denver fans were still optimistic. But with more incompletions and fumbles, the score eventually turned into an amazing 22 to nothing in Seattle’s favor.
These batches of ads were full of celebrities. While the Muppets hijacked Terry Crews’ Toyota, Stephen Colbert raved about Wonderful pistachios, and the cast of Seinfeld (minus Elaine and Kramer) plugged Crackle.com. Still, this Volkswagen spot about German engineers was one of the night’s most memorable moments.
Was it live or not? It seemed as though the show was already going on the field while the sportscasters gave their half-time report. But Pepsi’s official half-time opening consisted of playing various New York landmarks like musical instruments. Dramatic music heralded a choir of kids singing the chorus to “Millionaire” and a golden Bruno Mars banged out a pretty good drum solo. He and his band moved onto the main stage for “Locked Out Of Heaven”, “Treasure”, and “Runaway Baby”. It was basically the same thing as any of his other TV performances, though a short sample of the “little bit softer/louder now” refrain from “Shout” made things slightly more interesting. The Red Hot Chili Peppers appeared with a NFL logo-emblazoned drum kit for a duet of “Give It Away”. Shirtless members of the band must have been thankful that the temperature turned out to be a balmy 49 degrees. Finally, in what would become his best performance, Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” was introduced by a video clip of US soldiers dedicating the ballad to their loved ones. A fairly impressive fireworks show followed. Overall, it was way better than Beyonce.
As the Seahawks scored another touchdown, commentators threw around phrases like “terrible” and “in a hole” when describing the Broncos. Denver finally scored at the end of the quarter, but the resulting score of 36 to 8 left viewers with nothing to do but watch the celebrities in attendance eat pizza. It’s safe to say that the official Super Bowl XLVIII Blu-Ray set probably won’t be a big seller this year.
These commercials were a mixed bag. Audi’s Doberhuahua was one of the funniest new spots. Kia’s Matrix themed ad was just weird. But Budweiser’s salute to returning veteran Chuck Nadd was endearingly sweet. Even sweeter was seeing the guy in the audience with his sweetheart afterwards.
When an announcer says, “For all practical purposes, this game is over” during the first five minutes: you aren’t watching compelling television. In the last minutes of the game, Richard Sherman severely injured his right ankle and had to be carted off the field. This didn’t stop the Seattle Seahawks from taking their first win in the franchise’s history, with the unbelievable score of 43 to 8.
Heavily hyped commercials for SodaStream (starring Scarlett Johansson) and Dannon Oikos yogurt (featuring a partial Full House reunion) weren’t impressive, but an inspiring Microsoft spot might just make you feel something.
New Girlfeaturing a guest cameo by Prince.
There was more commentary to be said, but Paul Allen eventually accepted the Vince Lombardi trophy and Seahawk Malcolm Smith won the title of MVP and a new Chevy Silverado.
All that was left to do was introduce a new episode of New Girl featuring a guest appearance by Prince. It was an odd night.