Monday, February 02, 2004

Special Effects
For years, I have taken my Super Bowl bathroom breaks while the game is on, figuring that any spectacular plays I miss will be on Sportscenter, but a commercial that generates a national buzz will not. Now I guess I have to adhere to that rule during halftime, too, for I missed Janet Jackson's exposure yesterday. "Did I just see what I think I saw?" my wife called from the living room. Apparently, yes. The NFL is in a state of high dudgeon, and CBS reported getting several irate phone calls. (There must be people out there with the networks on speed dial, just waiting to pounce.) It would be too bad if Janet's breast overshadowed Adam Vinatieri's foot, Jake Delhomme's heart, Tom Brady's cool, and the game as a whole. It was a classic, and I'm almost sorry I said the Super Bowl is usually the dullest week of the playoffs.

The Janet kerfuffle will certainly overshadow the commercials, as nondescript a bunch as has ever graced Super Sunday. USA Today's fabled ad meter picked the Budweiser spot in which a terrier grabs a man's crotch as the best ad of the day. (Panelists had a wide variety of crotch spots to choose from, from Cedric the Entertainer's bikini wax to euphemism-laden spots for two different erectile dysfunction drugs.) And the less said about Bud's spot featuring a flatulent horse, the better. The best ad of the day didn't air until the fourth quarter, when a young Jimi Hendrix chooses a Pepsi and decides to buy a guitar from a nearby pawn shop instead of buying a Coke from the machine next to an accordion shop. Cadillac's "new wave" spots featured the day's most spectacular special effects.

Had MoveOn.org's "Guess who's paying for Bush's deficit?" spot been permitted to air during the game, it would have been one of the day's best spots. (As it was, MoveOn aired it on CNN during halftime of the game.) After seeing the other straight-out "advocacy" spot aired during the game--American Legacy's anti-tobacco "Shards of Glass"--it's clearer than ever that CBS's refusal to run MoveOn's ad was done purely out of fear of a right-wing backlash like the one that made them cancel the Reagan miniseries. Better to run another promo for CSI than to risk stirring up the wingnuts. Although now that CBS has broadcast Janet Jackson's unfettered anatomy to millions, the wingnuts are up in arms anyhow.

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