Event television can be a hard thing to avoid. I'd fallen into the habit of watching the Super Bowl every year, just because it felt expected. I'm not a football fan and I never watch regular season games. However, the American culture insists on making a big deal out of the event. My grocery store had displays for Super Bowl party paraphernalia at least as prominent as the ones for Valentine's Day. Restaurants and bars had their big screens on and their drink specials updated, hoping to attract customers. Traffic was awful at three in the afternoon on a Sunday, and promised to get worse that evening. Super Bowl ratings have just gotten bigger every year, and in the age of a thousand cable channels and ever-more-niche programming, that's a rare thing for advertisers.
Ah yes, the advertising. My excuse for watching past Super Bowls was for the commercials, which were more entertaining for me than the football. I have to say it was a neat trick, advertisers somehow turning beer and insurance advertisements into a reason to tune in, but as advertisements go the Super Bowl commercials have developed an aura of the exceptional around them. They have their own "Best of" specials. They're ranked and discussed around literal and metaphorical water coolers the next day. I've already found dozens of articles sorting out the winners and losers. In short, they're treated like real, legitimate content. People actually pay attention to these commercials, and their creators and the networks selling ad space all know it. This year, it cost almost three million dollars for a thirty second spot, so the ad firms are under tremendous pressure to show something memorable.
Thanks to Hulu and other advertisement aggregator websites that provide easy access to all of the commercials that aired, I don't need to sit through three plus hours of football in order to see them. And I can easily avoid the network spots, the news updates, the program bumpers, and those one or two commercials that always seem to be repeated multiple times throughout the game. Most of these sites even have popularity rankings, so I can avoid the lousier commercials or the ones with content I wanted to avoid. This year, the Groupon ads seemed to be the most universally reviled, so I skipped them without any trouble. The same went for the traditionally moronic Doritos and GoDaddy spots. On the other hand, the buzz was all about a Volkswagon commercial with a mini-Darth Vader. Cute, but not worth all the fuss. I liked both of the Coca Cola ads better, and I'll probably be seeing versions of them in theaters soon.
However, my primary interest is always the movie teasers, and this year there were plenty. Most like "Limitless," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Thor," "Rango," "Rio," and "Battle: Los Angeles" had slimmed down versions of the trailers that had already been released, though often with a few seconds of new footage. "Cowboys vs. Aliens" finally let us see what the alien ships looked like up close. There were only a few of the new movie spots that had new material really worth talking about. "Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon" rolled out the first real footage from the film, which looks exactly like the last two. "Captain America" and "Super 8" were more interesting. The former gave us a quick look at the creation and training of the superhero the taglines are calling First Avenger, and the latter definitely has an "E.T." vibe with the kids and the alien menace. Not a great bunch this year overall. Notably, "The Green Lantern" was missing from the lineup. What gives, Warners?
I did catch a couple of minutes of the pre-game show, so I saw a few of these live. I also found Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler plugging their new romantic comedy, "Just Go With It," by horsing around with the football presenters. Note that this is the same film that shoehorned an obtrusive promo right in the middle of a Lakers-Celtics game last week, to the fury of basketball fans. It's probably a good thing that they decided to keep away from the actual game this time.
All in all, what I wanted to see of the Super Bowl only took me about half an hour of Internet browsing to see. It makes me wonder why I wasted all that that time and attention watching the actual games. But then, I missed the whole shared experience of seeing the live airings at the same time as everyone else in the country, and that's the real point of event television. The trouble is, the Super Bowl isn't really my event, not like the Oscars or the Olympics spectacles that I actually enjoy watching, so I don't get the benefit of the excitement. The commercials alone don't generate that for me. So from here on out, it looks like my Super Bowl Sundays - will just be Sundays.