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Super Bowl spectacle: Mars, Seinfeld, llamas, bears - and plenty of Dylan

Bruno Mars, left, performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Bruno Mars, left, performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) AP

Throw another Roman numeral on the pile. The curiously American carnival known as the Super Bowl occupied New Jersey last night. The usual outsized elements were in attendance: spectacle, celebrities, a massive TV audience, extravagant commercials.

All that was lacking was a game.

Actually, despite the lopsided score, Super Bowl XLVIII was crisply played and surprisingly chippy. But it was such a blowout that when the Red Hot Chili Peppers sang "Give It Away" at halftime, the lyrics seemed like an indictment of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's turnovers.

It got so bad that the Omaha Chamber of Commerce sent Manning a petition in the third quarter to start using "Boise" as his audible chant.

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    The Super Bowl show only grows more grandiose each year. Although Renee Fleming, opera soprano and Katie Couric look-alike, was an odd choice to sing the national anthem. Sort of like appointing Tony Siragusa your orchestra conductor.

    As always, the broadcast did not lack for sponsors. The Jeep Halftime Show bracketed the Pepsi Halftime Show like a Russian nesting doll.

    The halftime performer, Bruno Mars, looked suspiciously like Seahawks QB Russell Wilson with a pompadour. But his old-timey revue was marvelous - gold lamé jackets, skinny ties, and all.

    Halftime also brought a strange Seinfeld reunion that Newman stole from Jerry and George.

    Then there was the customary ad orgy, which this year more than ever before, relied on stunt casting.

    You had Don Cheadle with a llama, and a bewigged Arnold Schwarzenegger for Bud Light. Fred Armisen hugging Bruce Willis for all he was worth in service of Honda. Johnny Galecki and Richard Lewis racing for Hyundai. And Jason Statham (apparently a Downton Abbey fan) leaving a plane in midflight for Xfinity.

    The most jaw-dropping and surreal commercial spokesperson had to be folk bard Bob Dylan, who contributed a long, poetic ode to Chrysler ("You can search the world for the finer things / But you won't find a match / For the American road and the creatures that live on it.")

    There were the usual movie ads, in this case for Noah, Need for Speed with Aaron Paul; The Amazing Spider-Man 2; and Transformers: Age of Extinction. But the best one was for a movie that doesn't exist. It came during the pregame when Rob Riggle used Conan O'Brien, Chuck Norris, Joe Namath, and Andy Samberg for a parody trailer of Escape from East Rutherford.

    The game brought impressive ads (the U2 performance video of their new single "Invisible" produced by Danger Mouse) and funny ones (the Doritos cardboard time machine; the Kodiak bear shopping for yogurt to a Bob Dylan song. Him again?). There were amusing ads (Sarah McLachlan strumming an appeal for that grotesque Doberhuahua dog breed that apparently emerged from a Ludacris video) and epic fails (Ellen DeGeneres playing Goldilocks - that will spark nightmares.) We even got a Geico ad celebrating the haute cuisine of Geno's and Pat's. But that gecko wouldn't last two minutes on East Passyunk Avenue.

    The Fox coverage came off as oddly muted without the presence of their boy-howdy analyst, Terry Bradshaw, who had flown to Louisiana to be with his family after his father died at 86 on Thursday.

    Although Michael Strahan assumed Bradshaw's official duties, Howie Long seemed determined to make up for any gaps in the coverage all by himself. Long was markedly voluble during his airtime.

    The most anticipated story line turned out to be a total nonfactor: an outdoor game in New Jersey in February. It was 49 degrees at MetLife at kickoff, decidedly warmer than it was in Seattle or Denver.

    So if the cold-weather stadiums are now in play for the Super Bowl, how about next year in Philly?

     


    dhiltbrand@phillynews.com

    215-854-4875 @daveondemand_tv

     

    David Hiltbrand Inquirer TV Critic
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