Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Ad Nauseum | In a rare turnabout, the Super Bowl was more fun to watch this year than the ads which funded CBS's airing of it. Slate's Allen Barra, writing the Sports Nut column, termed the game "terrific entertainment and lousy football," which is as good a capsule review as you'll find in five words or less. As for the commercials, Salon's King Kaufman pegged the whole thing very well:

Those who predicted a humdrum affair on super Sunday were rewarded not by the game but by the commercials, which failed to live up to their billing as being every bit the event the football game is.

This year's crop of Super Bowl ads was the weakest one I can remember. I suspect the passing of the dot-com boom times has meant the end of the heyday of the really outrageously expensive, pointless but jaw-dropping TV commercial. Oh, to see some cats getting herded again.

In fact, the commentaries on the commercials have been more entertaining than the commercials themselves. Brilliantly lamenting, "Where have you gone, Terry Tate, office linebacker?," Kaufman wrote:

Dodge used a monkey too -- as in, one on a guy's back, the monkey being that he can't find a car that ... oh, whatever. The Linux ad with the kid and Muhammad Ali: Can we just put a moratorium on pseudo-profundity in television ads? It usually shows up in commercials for financial firms -- you know, "What can a left-handed bacon stretcher teach us about investing?" But a particularly annoying version is the spiritual-spooky kid. That little brat in the car ad who whispers, "Zoom zoom." How do I love kids like that? Parboiled.

Gillette ran an incredibly hokey black-and-white ad that looked like one of those "Real Men of Genius" spoofs, only it was dead serious. Dudes, it's a razor. Settle down.

As a Patriots fan, Seth Stevenson had the onerous mission of carrying out his duties as Slate's Ad Report Card writer while also paying attention to the game. In his "selective Super Bowl ad diary," Stevenson, like Kaufman, ragged on the commercials, calling them "nothing to write home about" and "an exceptionally weak crop of ads." Thankfully, his piece wasn't bogged down by the effort required to write something amusing about such dreary efforts -- take this, for example:

A Levitra ad, starring spokesman Mike Ditka, compares football to baseball. Not surprisingly, since Levitra is an NFL sponsor and Viagra is endorsed by a baseball star, football comes out on top. Ditka actually says, "Baseball could use Levitra." Translation: Baseball is limp! You can't get it up, baseball! As I have previously shown, Levitra's euphemism for sex is the image of a football being thrown through a tire. In this ad, Ditka throws the football through the tire, and shouts, "You gotta love that!" This forced me to contemplate the thought of a sweaty Ditka, immediately post-coitus, shouting "You gotta love that!" at his partner. Horrifying.

(Warning: Clumsy segue ahead.) Hey, speaking of Super Bowl ads and funny writing, just about everybody has something on the AOL Top Speed commercials featuring the American Chopper guys, but nobody did it as well as "Middie Back!" He took advantage of the AOL ads to give a great shout-out to one of his favorite shows:

Since the bulk of my days are spent playing Playstation 2, watching "The Simpsons," and participating in "fantasy" hockey leagues (Shawn = NERD!), I try to look out for something stimulating on television. American Chopper fits the bill. Chopper is a reality series which highlights the inner workings of New York's Orange County Chopper, a popular motorcycle business which specializes in building custom choppers from scratch. The cycles, however, take a back seat (no pun intended) to the cast, which includes owner Paul, Sr., a man whose sole emotions are silence and rage, son Paul, Jr., craftsman extraordinairre, who merely tolerates "the old man," and youngest son/apprentice Mikey, whose sole purpose is to aggravate Paul, Sr. They are the Three Stooges of chopper design, with Paul, Sr. as Moe, and his sons as the oft-beaten Larry and Curly.

I'm willing to bet my daughter's college fund that the phrase "the Three Stooges of chopper design" has never appeared in published form, either print or electronic, before. Shawn may be a nerd -- check that, he is a nerd -- but he can sure bring the funny. Maybe he should be doing Super Bowl ads.


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