CNN — Sunday night’s Super Bowl was awful.
Like, really awful. No drama, no tension. Just one-sided, coma-inducing football, interrupted by mostly one-dimensional, coma-inducing commercials. Budweiser’s pluck-a-guy-out-of-nowhere-and-turn-his-world-upside-down spots felt forced, inauthentic. Tim Tebow’s ads were quirky, but not so interesting. There were the predictable odes to fast cars and cold drinks and large-breasted women driving fast while drinking cold.
Thank goodness for Radio Shack.
Yes, Radio Shack. A store 78.5 percent of Americans couldn’t locate on a map. A store that feels as outdated as legwarmers and “Saved By the Bell.” A store that … brought us pure commercial genius.
In an advertisement titled, “The ’80s Called: They Want Their Store Back,” a who’s who of iconic 1980s figures storm a Radio Shack, yanking out every piece of dated equipment and loading the haul into the “Back to the Future” DeLorean. There’s Erik Estrada and Kid ‘n Play; John Oates and Mary Lou Retton; Dee Snyder (in full Twisted Sister garb) and the Alf puppet. It’s a perfect, spot-on piece of commercial creativity, and I’ve now watched it on YouTube at least a half-dozen times.
But it was one of the few exceptions among the ads, that — like the four unyielding quarters of football hell — left me feeling let down and disappointed as I flipped off the TV. This year’s commercials had more star power than ever before, with appearances ranging from Ellen DeGeneres and Ben Kingsley to Andy Samberg and Terry Crews. And yet … the names seemed to replace the creativity.
In particular, Budweiser — always a player when it comes to salesmanship — dressed Arnold Schwarzenegger up as some sort of 1970s table tennis competitor. And it was brutal. Just brutal. Not funny, not creative. Dumb.
But there were still some winners among these losers. Here’s a look at both
Winner: Cheerios. Last year General Mills ran an advertisement for its marquee cereal that featured an interracial couple. There was a ton of feedback, and much anger from the nation’s racist idiots. So how does the company fight back? By running another ad with the same couple and this time they’re expecting a baby. Bravo.
Loser: Ford and Rob Riggle. All of the car company’s spots were painful. Rob Riggle was fantastic on the Daily Show, but completely unfunny here. There came a point during one of the ads, which also featured James Franco sleepwalking through, where I noticed my entire family staring blankly at the screen, wondering what the hell was going on.
Winner: Toyota’s Muppets spots were quite good, but mainly because the Muppets are almost always good. That said, do 20% of Americans recognize their fellow passenger, actor Terry Crews? Probably not.
Loser: Subway. There is no corporation in America that puts out consistently less sensible ads than the sandwich company, which used a bevy of former Olympians while failing to identify them. I’m a sports writer. I’ve been a sports writer for 20 years. But would I know Nastia Liukin were she knocking on my door? Probably not. Same situation here.
Winner: Bruno Mars. One of the most energetic halftime shows ever. Early on in his career, it was easy to dismiss Mars as merely another pop tart. Yet with Sunday’s wonderful output, it’s time we start discussing Mars along the soulful likes of Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. He’s that good, and showed it again.
Loser: Anyone who purchased expensive ad time in the fourth quarter of one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history. Nobody was watching. Nobody.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.