Nothing succeeds like excess for the network covering the Super Bowl.
NBC succeeded by sticking to the formula, starting a full 5½ hours before kickoff with its John Williams-penned “Sunday Night Football” theme music — the tune that sounds like it was borrowed from a sword-and-sandal flick. The day ended with a thrilling game, better than anyone could have expected.
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Cris Collinsworth and Bob Costas appeared on the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium, and Costas promised: “Super Bowl Sunday is a game, yes. But it’s also a national party, and over the next five hours we’ll capture as much of the football and frivolity as we can.”
Frivolous, and maybe even a little fatuous.
Some of the show inevitably felt forced and foolish. But, overall, NBC delivered solid coverage, using a 300-frame-per-second “X-Mo” cam for replays on each goal line and at midfield. It came in handy when Santonio Holmes caught the winning TD pass in the Steelers 27-23 victory over the Cardinals.
“Today” personality Al Roker’s thankless job was to have various celebrities come on to flog their latest projects (who won’t be identified and given further free promotion here).
And there was face time aplenty for stars of NBC Universal’s various programs and outlets: NBC’s “Nightly News” anchorman Brian Williams, “Today” host Matt Lauer, Bravo’s “Top Chef” martinet Tom Colicchio.
Even CNBC’s Money Honey, Maria Bartiromo, got to offer a “Business Brief” culminating with her crowing that NBC set an ad revenue record for its Super Bowl commercial sales.
Bet the boss loved that — and we’re not talking about halftime act Bruce Springsteen.
Once the game got under way, director Drew Esocoff kept the camera shots crisp, punching up quick cuts and appropriately timed close-ups, while Al Michaels provided spot-on play-by-play — as always — keeping on top of the action with alacrity and accuracy. When he gets excited, it feels real — something we’ve known since the 1980 Winter Olympics.
And while it’s hard not to think of Frank Caliendo’s John Madden impersonation, marked by incoherent ranting, the ex-coach clearly delivered observations and insights without devolving into the arcane world of Xs and Os. Between slick graphics and Madden’s simple explanation, the term “receiving radius” could be understood even by those who only watch the big game for the commercials.
And he wasn’t afraid to opine that James Harrison should have been thrown out of the game, after the league’s defensive player of the year kept pounding on an opposing player.
Michaels and Madden played off each other as well as ever, too, especially when the game tightened up and came to an exciting conclusion.
Just before Holmes caught the decisive TD, Madden offered: “They’re going to have to do something to Santonio Holmes for the deep one, because he had that. I mean, he was open and the ball went right through his hands.”
It didn’t go through his hands on the next pass.
“Caught for a touchdown!” Michaels yelled. “Unbelievable! Incredible!”
He and Madden rightly anticipated that the play would stand up to official review.
“The emotions in this game have been over the moon,” Michaels observed.
From Obama to Springsteen
Unfortunately, NBC had audio problems during Lauer’s interview with President Barack Obama in the White House map room. But the network didn’t pull away, and quickly fixed the sound, allowing viewers to hear him talk seriously about foreign issues and the economy before turning to football and reiterating that he’s rooting for the Steelers. (Steelers owner Dan Rooney endorsed Obama’s presidential bid and campaigned for him.)
Costas’ tete-a-tete with Springsteen was entertaining, with pop-culture maven Costas asking The Boss why he chose to do the halftime show this year after being asked numerous times before.
“I have an album to promote, dummy,” Springsteen cackled. “It’s not rocket science.”
What refreshing honesty. Leave it to Springsteen.
And knowing about the heartache Jennifer Hudson suffered from the October slayings of her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew, her performance of the national anthem felt particularly brave and stirring.
The chemistry between Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick that goes back to their co-anchoring days on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” was on display after Olbermann recounted a history of the peripatetic Cardinals franchise and the team’s six-decade-long futility. Once Olbermann finished, Patrick yanked his chain by trying to draw a comparison between the Super Bowl and politics. But Olbermann pretended not to bite, declining to transform into the MSNBC pitbull-pundit he’s become, and joking that he didn’t know anything about the subject.
“Poli ...,” he stammered.
Then, he ventured: “Polamalu.”
“Somewhere, Bill O’Reilly is smiling,” Patrick cracked.