Super Bowl ads: The good, the bad and the risque
No, I was hoping for a technology meltdown that would have unleashed the commercial the CBS censors wouldn't let you see.
It was submitted by the condom manufacturer Durex. But I don't think the censors freaked out over the product — the Super Bowl has aired so many Viagra commercials the past decade that "erectile dysfunction" has replaced "mommy" as the first utterance of the average baby.
Nope, the problem with the Durex ad is that it appeared to have been scripted by Chuck Manson. It follows a man's life backward from age 73, when he's just shot up a bank with an automatic rifle, through his earlier adventurers as a home invader, a teenage bully, a kitten-torturer and an infant who killed his mother in the process of being born.
The final flashback features his parents, moments after an unprotected roll in the hay, giggling as the soon-to-be-dad jeers at the idea that they didn't use protection: "What's the worst that could happen?"
This story has a predictably happy ending, if you're Durex. The commercial went online last week, where the news that it had been blacklisted by CBS earned it several jillion views, not to mention churning up a bunch of stories like this one that will ensure it's watched even more next week — and for months afterward.
And there's my real point. Why pay $133,333 per second — really, that's the actual price for a 30-second spot — for a Super Bowl commercial when you can make a splash for free on the Internet, where all the action really is?
Granted, it's not as easy as it used to be to get your ad banned. T-shirt manufacturer Gildan didn't draw a peep from CBS with its ad about a young guy who wakes up from a night of debauchery wearing fur-lined handcuffs and lying next to a young debauchee. And now he's got to get back his T-shirt, which is about all she's wearing. . . .
When I talked last week to Robert Packard, Gildan's vice president of marketing, he was pretty happy his ad was going to be aired. He thought the $3.8 million cost was a bargain. "We get roughly 110 million viewers," he said. "It's literally the biggest forum I can find."
Gildan's ad was entertaining, and would have been much more so if Sigmund Freud were still alive. (What would he have said about that cat creepily staring from the background?)
But most of Sunday's commercials continued a recent trend toward terminal weirdness, as if Luis Bunuel had infiltrated the creative departments at Taco Bell and Pepsi.
Doritos: They drive goats wild and trigger outbreaks of human transvestitism! A bunch of warm moments captured by hidden security cams make Coke, definitively, the Official Soft Drink of the National Security State! But if you need a Satanist priest to cast an evil spell, make an offering of Bud Light.
And the main message I drew from Taco Bell's parody of the movie Cocoon, with old people sneaking out at night to get loaded and stuff themselves with fast-food burritos, was that Taco Bell is a great place to eat if you wear Depends.
The most transcendently aberrant commercial was for GoDaddy.com, the Internet company whose Super Bowl ads for the past decade have set new marks in walk-on-the-wild-side sexuality without ever once explaining what the hell the company does.
This time around, GoDaddy had Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli making out with a pimply cybergeek for a full and very noisy 10 seconds. (Best Twitter crack of the night: The ad's audio "was actually the sound of two eels fighting over a soft-boiled egg.")
A GoDaddy press release revealed that it took 65 takes to get the kissing right, due no doubt to regular interruptions while Refaeli projectile vomited and screamed for death and an escape from an empty and godless universe.
To be perfectly fair, some anthropologists will probably argue that the most egregiously deviant sexual pairing of the night was not Refaeli and the nerd but Glee 's Naya Rivera and an M&M, who sang Meat Loaf's I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) through an escalating series of erotic actions that climaxed with her trying to stuff him into an oven atop of a batch of brownies.
The bizarre nature of most of the ads made it seem almost hallucinatory when a funny one popped up. I don't exactly understand why The Big Bang Theory 's hottie waitress Kaley Cuoco was a wizard granting wishes to Toyota buyers, but I couldn't help laughing when she misheard a request for "infinite wishes" as "infinite witches " and the air was suddenly filled with broomsticks.
(Cuoco also got the second-best line of the night when, in a promo for her show, she whispered to her Cal Tech nerd boyfriend, who dressed in a football uniform for the commercial, that the cup is worn on the inside.)
At least the ads were more interesting than the leaden CBS commentary during the game's 35-minute blackout.
Four decades ago, during its telecasts of the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky chess matches, PBS had a color commentator named Shelby Lyman who had to talk for literally hours between moves. CBS could have used him Sunday.
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