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A critique of the Super Bowl ads

Ken Tucker weighs in on cat wrangling, ”Money up the wazoo,” and Regis Philbin

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A critique of the Super Bowl ads

As someone who until last week didn’t even know there existed a football team called the Tennessee Titans, I am shocked to find myself writing that, for the first time, this year’s Super Bowl game was in general more interesting than the slew of new commercials that debuted during its breaks. This is, of course, appalling — Super Bowls are supposed to be tedious, so that diehard fans and pigskin illiterates can unite in common complaint.

The worst thing that’s ever happened to this heretofore happy situation is the rise of dot-com companies and their fat coffers for advertising. Online businesses seemed to dominate Sunday’s blowout in a way that neither team dominated the game itself, and for the most part, their commercials stank. Among the worst: Hotjobs.com, KForce.com, britannica.com (it’s shocking: an encyclopedia company going lower-case!), and lifeminders.com (”This may be the worst commercial of the Super Bowl” said their ad — no kiddin’). OK, I DID like ETrade.com’s ”Money up the wazoo” spot, in which a man is brought into a hospital emergency because he’s got… well, you get the picture. But ETrade also had one of the worst: two guys and a monkey grooving to ”La Cucaracha.”

I must admit one dot-com company did itself proud: EDS.com’s beautifully absurd cat wranglers commercial — cowboys rustling not herds of cows but felines, and talking poetic-cowboy talk about the romance of it all. Other than that, the highlights for me were the Mountain Dew commercial where the guy sticks his arm down the cheetah’s throat and pulls out a can of Dew, and the 7-Up spot featuring ”Mad TV”’s Orlando Jones inaugurating the soda’s ”Show Us Your Can” campaign, resulting in lots of shots of people’s rear ends.

The most surprising commercial was the one that featured Christopher Reeve walking, in a special-effects miracle for the Nuveen investment company. The most unavoidable commercial presence, however, was Regis Philbin, who popped up in countless ABC spots to promote ”NYPD Blue,” ”Dharma & Greg,” and ”SportsNight.” Regis, baby: You and ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” have saved the network already — the commercials are just overexposing you. Get some rest.