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February 2013 Archives

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Quite possibly the best television series ever made will wrap up this summer when AMC's "Breaking Bad" begins airing its final batch of season five episodes July 14 on AMC.

Here's your chance to get caught up before then or to simply relive Walter White's dramatic journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface.

Starting Monday (March 4), AMC's sister network Sundance Channel will air the series from the pilot all the way through the season four finale for a total of 46 episodes. Two back-to-back episodes will air in order every Monday night at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. CT.

"Breaking Bad" tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher from Albuquerque, N.M. White is given two years to live. This devastating diagnosis sparks a new sense of fearlessness in White, who's also desperate to provide financial security for his wife (Anna Gunn) and teenage son (RJ Mitte) with cerebral palsey. This leads White into the dangerous world of meth-making, giving viewers a fascinating look at an anti-hero's transformation from mild-mannered family man to ruthless drug kingpin.

Reruns on Sundance will follow premiere episodes of Sundance's new original series, including "The Staircase: Last Chance" on March 4 and 11, "Top of the Lake" March 18 through April 15, and "Rectify" from "Breaking Bad" producers (Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein), April 22-May 27.

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The truTV cable network has ordered up eight more episodes of "Hardcore Pawn: Chicago," extending the series' freshman season to a total of 17 episodes so far.

An off-shoot of the original "Hardcore Pawn" filmed in Detroit, the Chicago version takes place in Randy and Wayne Cohen's Royal Pawn Shop, one of the biggest and oldest pawn shops in the city.

"Hardcore Pawn: Chicago's" Jan. 1 debut gleaned more than 2.1 million viewers, making it the male-skewing cable net's biggest series launch ever. The show has continued to average 2.1 million viewers, including 1 million in the advertiser-coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

It's about time, Nielsen

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NEW YORK (AP) -- The company that measures television viewership will soon begin counting people who watch programming through broadband instead of a traditional broadcast or cable hook-up.

The move announced Thursday by Nielsen is a significant step toward recognizing a world where the definition of TV viewing is swiftly changing. For many years, roughly 99 percent of homes in the U.S. had televisions that received service through broadcast, cable or satellite signals.

Now the number of homes without such service is 4.2 percent -- and growing each year. An estimated three-quarters of those homes still have TVs, however, and their owners watch programming through game consoles or services like Netflix and Amazon. Starting September, Nielsen will have meters that can monitor viewership in those homes, said Brian Fuhrer, a senior vice president at Nielsen.

Starting September, Nielsen will begin tracking the habits of these homes. This will add roughly 160 homes to Nielsen's current sample of 23,000 houses nationwide with meters monitoring viewing habits. More significantly, Nielsen will return to its sample to find homes that have cable or broadcast, but also separate TV sets hooked up through broadband. This will add an estimated 2,000 more broadband sets, significantly increasing the sample size, Fuhrer said.

"Consumers are accessing content in new ways that fall outside of our traditional definitions and if we don't expand ... we could be missing an emerging trend," he said.

The changes aren't likely to quickly boost the ratings of your favorite program, however. Most of the programs shown through broadband don't have the same encodings as shows watched traditionally, primarily because they often have different advertisements. As a result, Nielsen will be limited in tracking what particular shows are being watched, at least until more universal encoding standards are developed.

Some broadband services have the ability to measure how much individual programs are seen but keep that information private. It is why, for example, there have been no estimates of how many people have seen Netflix's new series "House of Cards."

Even without those specifics, Nielsen will be still able to collect information such as who in the household is watching through broadband, and how much they watch. That is data that will at least be valuable to advertisers and marketers trying to target specific consumer groups. Nielsen's change was first reported in The Hollywood Reporter.

Nielsen must also develop a separate metering system for tablets and mobile devices, and Fuhrer said that work is ongoing.

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Desiree Hartsock had her heart broken on Monday's episode of "The Bachelor" after the ladies' hometown dates.
It was a surprising exit for the 26-year-old bridal stylist from L.A., whose brother, Nate, gave Bachelor Sean a hard time during the hometown visit. At one point, Nate called Sean a playboy, which The Bachelor said ticked him off royally during the "Sean Tell All" special Tuesday.

"I don't think that my brother helped my chances in staying," she said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Were you mad at your brother for his behavior on the show?
"I don't justify anything that my brother said or the way he said it to Sean. But he was protecting me. He didn't feel that Sean was going to be the right guy for me. Looking back, I can't be mad at my brother. I can move on and know that Sean and I aren't meant to be together."

Was that normal behavior for your brother, or was he just trying to make an impact on TV? Or was he on drugs?
"My brother doesn't believe in reality TV. He wants to pursue ministry and he's a missionary. He definitely doesn't do drugs or anything like that. He is very intense with the way he thinks. It's completely far off from the way I think. I'm not very close with my brother. I see [him] maybe once a year. My brother's opinion would never influence my decision."

Did Sean make a mistake letting you go when he did?
"In the moment, I felt we had the best connection. However, looking back, he did have great relationships with the other girls. I don't think it was a mistake."

Would she be interested in being The Bachelorette?
"I would definitely have to think about it...and make sure I'm prepared to get back on that emotional roller coaster. I'd probably say yes to the opportunity."

"I think he ended up choosing the love of his life and that's not me."

Which of the women from the house are you still close to?
"I connected most and became greater friends with Jackie, Lindsay and Daniella." (She no longer keeps in touch with Sean.)

Is Sean a playboy, like your brother said?
Being on the show, the set up is to date more than 20 women at once. But as for Sean, "I think he's as far away from being a playboy as anyone can be."

Sean said there were other things lacking in your relationship. What was he referring to?
"Looking back and watching the show, maybe I did put up a guard. I was holding back a little bit more than maybe the other girls were. It takes me a little longer to say I love you because I want it to be right."

Are you still devastated about the break up with Sean?
"I'm such a positive person. I've moved on. I'm completely over it. I know that I'll eventually find my Prince Charming." (She hasn't been dating since the show ended, though.)

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen Sunday's season finale of "Downton Abbey," stop reading.

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The worst-kept secret in television history is out: Matthew Crawley, the dashing heir to Downton Abbey, is dead.

In Sunday's season finale of the popular PBS period drama, the new father perished in a car crash before he could even pass out "It's a Boy!" cigars back at the estate. At least U.S. viewers weren't subjected to the tragic episode on Christmas like British fans. Happy holidays, indeed.

Dan Stevens, the actor who plays Matthew, opted not to renew his contract, leaving "Downton" creator Julian Fellowes little choice but to off the poor bloke.

Stevens told The Daily Telegraph he decided to leave the award-winning, cultural phenomenon for the freedom to pursue other parts.

"I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can," Stevens said. "And I think a moment like this is quite unique and presents those opportunities more than ever before."

Stevens admitted he doesn't "know exactly what is around the corner." Neither did many actors before him who walked away from the hit shows that spawned their success.

Some found themselves on the path to superstardom. Others took a wrong turn into obscurity. It's too soon to tell where Stevens is headed. Let's just hope he drives better than Matthew.

Five other TV stars who quit while the getting was still good:

George Clooney

He hung up his scrubs in 1999 after five seasons on "ER" playing the original Dr. McDreamy, Doug Ross. Giving up medicine for the movies paid off handsomely for the Academy Award-winning actor/Darfur peace broker. That's not the case for some of his fellow "ER" castmates. Sherry Stringfield's career could use some CPR, while Anthony Edwards made his return to series television this month with "Zero Hour," which is zero good.

The final cuts of Hollywood Week went down Thursday, and some local "American Idol" hopefuls had their hearts broken on the Valentine's Day episode of the Fox singing show.

It was the end of the line for Kiara Lanier, the talented 21-year-old college student/teacher who sang for President Obama. She sailed through the Chicago audition round with four yeses. But her journey stopped Thursday when judges opted not to send her through to the semifinals.

One of the season's more memorable contestants, amateur fire performer Kez Ban Sauerbier, 27, also got the boot after delivering a rather, um, unique acoustic guitar performance during Thursday's solo round. (The show identifies Kez Ban as being from Durham, N.C., but she moved to Chicago.)

As the judges announced the top 20 girls and the top 20 guys who will advance to the semifinals round, two Chicagoans have cause to celebrate.

Devin Velez is headed to Las Vegas for the semifinals, and so is Josh "Jada" Davila:

Devin Velez
This 18-year-old cadet at Chicago's Rickover Naval Academy brought judge Randy Jackson to his feet and was told he was "born to sing" by judge Keith Urban.

Josh "Jada" Davila
Josh "Jada" Davila from the South Side said he wants to be the next Idol because "androgyny needs to be seen more." The transgender performer reportedly was a semi-finalist in the Windy City Gay Idol competition.

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On "The Bachelor" Monday, drama queen Tierra was finally sent packing, much to the delight on the remaining women in the house and the nation as a whole.

Before Tierra said her tearful goodbye (and apparently got engaged to her ex, according to People magazine), she of the arched eyebrow and AshLee, a 32-year-old personal organizer from Houston, had it out.

AshLee Frazier spoke with television reporters Thursday about the Tierra smack down, Sean, hometown dates and other assorted topics. Here's an edited transcript of what the willowy adopted-child-and-former-high-school-bride had to say:

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I'm pretty pumped up about this: FX announced Tuesday that it's ordered 13 episodes of "The Bridge," a new drama series based on a Nordic Noir hit series ("Bron") about the hunt for a serial killer.

The original series is set in Sweden and Denmark. The remake takes place on the border between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. It centers on two detectives -- one from the US, the other from Mexico -- who have to work together to find the killer operating on both sides of the border.

Executive Producers Meredith Stiehm ("Homeland") and novelist and television writer/producer Elwood Reid adapted "The Bridge" for American television.

FX released the following details about the stars/characters:

Demián Bichir ("A Better Life") stars in the role of Marco Ruiz, a homicide investigator for the state of Chihuahua, Mexico living in Ciudad Juárez. A family man, Marco is one of the last good men in a corrupt and apathetic police force that is outgunned by the powerful drug cartels. He's sharp, charming, and observant and painfully aware that his city is in a state of chaos. When a body is dumped on the bridge that spans the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez border, Ruiz is forced to work with his American counterpart, Detective Sonya Cross.

Cross is played by Diane Kruger ("Farewell, My Queen"). Cross is a dogged cop who has an undiagnosed disorder that falls on the autism spectrum. Cross is shockingly candid and calls the world as she sees it, which can be off-putting to her colleagues, but she is also extremely effective at her job.

Ted Levine plays Lt. Hank Wade, a member of Detective Cross's team at the El Paso Police Department who is a veteran cop with a weathered, cowboy swagger. He is not surprised by anything that human beings will do to one another, but he's utterly baffled by the office coffeemaker. Hank knows that Sonya communication skills are challenged, and repeatedly has to advise her how to work more diplomatically with others.

Annabeth Gish plays Charlotte Millwright, a wealthy ranch wife suddenly widowed when her older husband Karl suffers a massive heart attack while on the Mexican side of the border. A sheltered woman with a ranch to run, Charlotte quickly learns that her late husband has many shocking secrets.

Thomas M. Wright plays Steven Linder, a wolf of a man who is no stranger to the dark and jumbled chaos of Juárez.

The series is scheduled to debut this summer.

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PBS will air a series of special programs Feb. 18-22 tied to last year's tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Details are below, but I wanted to call special attention to a Feb. 22 episode of PBS Newshour that will look at gun violence in Chicago. Details on that are in bold.

Here's the line-up, from PBS:

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, PBS will broadcast a series of specials February 18-22 (Check local listings) as part of its "After Newtown" initiative. The specials will include news reports from PBS NEWSHOUR, a two-part documentary from FRONTLINE (in a special collaboration with The Hartford Courant), a science-based special on NOVA, analysis on WASHINGTON WEEK, a human interest report on NEED TO KNOW, plus two independent documentaries. PBS is harnessing its science, documentary and public affairs units - with a tradition of unbiased reporting that makes it America's most trusted source of news - to provide in-depth reporting on the myriad issues related to gun violence, including gun laws, mental health support and availability, and school safety.

AFTER NEWTOWN: GUNS IN AMERICA (GUSA)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET; rpt. Thursday, February 21, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET

GUNS IN AMERICA is an unprecedented exploration of America's enduring relationship with firearms. From the first European settlements in the New World to frontier justice; from 19th-century immigrant riots to gangland violence in the Roaring Twenties; from the Civil War to civil rights, guns have been at center of our national narrative. Americans have relied on guns to sustain communities, challenge authority and keep the peace. Efforts to curtail their distribution and ownership have triggered epic political battles. This program traces the evolution of guns in America, their frequent link to violence and the clash of cultures that reflect competing visions of our national identity.

FRONTLINE "Raising Adam Lanza" (FRON #3106)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET; rpt. Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET

In the wake of the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, FRONTLINE investigates a young man and the town he changed forever. Adam Lanza's motives, and his life, remain largely a mystery. With The Hartford Courant, FRONTLINE looks for answers to the central -- and so far elusive -- question: Who was Adam Lanza? Also this hour: In the aftermath of the tragedy, President Obama called for a national conversation about guns. Nowhere is that conversation more intense than in Newtown, where FRONTLINE finds a town divided and explores how those closest to the tragedy are wrestling with our nation's gun culture and laws.

NOVA "Mind of a Rampage Killer" (NOVA #4008)
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET

What makes a person walk into a theater or church or classroom and open fire? What combination of circumstances compels a human being to commit the most inhuman of crimes? As the nation tries to comprehend the tragic events in Newtown, NOVA correspondent Miles O'Brien investigates theories into what drives rampage killers. Could suicide -- and the desire to go out in a media-fueled blaze of glory -- be their main motivation? How much can science tell us about a brain at risk for violence? Most important, can we recognize dangerous minds in time to stop the next Newtown?

THE PATH TO VIOLENCE (PATV)
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET

Psychologists, working with law enforcement officers, have devised tools to prevent violent attacks. THE PATH TO VIOLENCE details a powerfully effective Secret Service program -- the Safe School Initiative -- that's helped schools detect problem behavior. However, shooters like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and allegedly James Holmes all executed their attacks after they'd left school. Can the gains made by psychologists and law enforcement be extended to encompass parents -- terrified of their own children and inadequately helped by mental health and legal systems -- and families of violent individuals? Is the country ready for a national conversation about the balance between school safety and civil liberties that interventions, including gun control, require?

WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL (WWIR)
Friday, February 22, 2013, 8:00-8:30 p.m. ET

Managing Editor Gwen Ifill moderates a segment discussing how Washington lawmakers are addressing the issue of gun control.

NEED TO KNOW (NETK)
Friday, February 22, 2013, 8:30-9:00 p.m. ET

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, NEED TO KNOW retraces an earlier shooting incident, exploring the ripple effects that continue to reverberate years later. The program takes an in-depth look at the traumatic results on the victim's family, the killer and the killer's family, others wounded that day and on the community at large.

PBS NEWSHOUR (MLNH)
Monday, February 18, 2013 - Friday, February 22, 2013, 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET

Each newscast will include a segment exploring issues surrounding the Newtown tragedy.

Monday, February 18: A report on how the community of Aurora, Colorado (the site of the Columbine High School shootings) is reacting to the national debate stirred by Newtown and the recommendations for reducing violence proposed by the Biden task force.

Tuesday, February 19: Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown reports on the ongoing debate about the connections--or lack of connections--between violent video games and violent behavior.

Wednesday, February 20: Science Correspondent Miles O'Brien explores what scientists know, and don't know, about adolescent brain development, and what risk factors may lead a young person to violent behavior.

Thursday, February 21: A report from Florida, the first state to record more than one million requests for permits to carry concealed weapons. PBS NewsHour explores the increase in requests for gun licenses in the wake of Newtown, and the arguments for and against concealed-carry laws in the state where Trayvon Martin's killing is still a fresh memory.

Friday, February 22: From Chicago, a look at gun violence as a public health issue. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently shared that many more children die of gunshot wounds every day in Chicago than are killed by mass murderers in a year.

The season 16 cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (premiering March 18) will be revealed Feb. 26 on "Good Morning America."

My guess is it's going to skew markedly younger than seasons past.

If this long-in-the-tooth show is going to have legs, it needs to attract an influx of younger viewers, which is what advertisers want anyway.

The audience didn't get any younger with last season's All-Stars edition -- a dud my all accounts.

"We were obviously disappointed not to see the All-Stars for 'Dancing' do as strongly as we would have liked," ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee told TV critics earlier this year. "I do think that the old stars made it a little bit older. I think we have the ability for casting fresh to bring in younger audiences again."

The second episode of FX's new Cold War-era spy thriller "The Americans" was down 39 percent in total viewers from the 90-minute premiere, but I'm not hitting the panic button yet. I expect the numbers will get a healthy boost when DVR playback is factored in.

One of the things I love most about the show is the time period: 1981. Makes me nostalgic for the clunky technology, cassette tapes, unflattering fashion and most of all, the music. Wish we could hurry up and get to 1983 so we could hear Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax."

What '80s songs do you want to hear in "The Americans?"

NBC's beleaguered cult comedy "Community" returns tonight at 7 p.m. (Central).

I watched the first two episodes of the new season. (By "new" I mean the episodes created after creator/showrunner Dan Harmon's much-publicized departure.)

I hate to say it, but I was not impressed. I think I laughed once, maybe twice, between both eps. They're not awful, mind you. They just felt, well, off. I'm willing to chalk it up to the creative kinks that can come along with showrunner transitions. At least that's what I hope it is. Time will tell soon enough.

Check it out for yourself tonight and let me know what you think. In the meantime, here's a fun clip to get you in the school spirit:

- "Viral Handshake" Let's Burn this Mother Down (to the beat)

Super Bowl commercials are a game-within-a-game, that rare chance for advertisers to compete in front of 110 million-plus viewers huddled around the TV. Opportunities like this don't come along often -- or cheaply, at a reported average of $3.8 million for 30 seconds of airtime. Here's who did -- and didn't -- make the most of it.


TOUCHDOWNS

Ode to farmers
Powerful in its straightforwardness, stripped-down authenticity and subtle patriotism, Ram Truck delivered with its moving two-minute long love letter to those who till the land. It features original photography and the late broadcaster Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" monologue, read by the legendary broadcaster some three decades ago.

Viva young
Not sure how Betty White avoided a cameo in this Taco Bell gem chronicling a wild night on the town with a bunch of old folks who make Lindsay Lohan seem tame. What made it all the better was the music: the Spanish version of "We Are Young" by fun. This scored as the big game's funniest ad but not the most effective, since I still don't want to eat Taco Bell.

Prom night
A boy goes to prom alone and, inspired by Dad's Audi, plants a big kiss on the prom queen in front of everyone, including her jealous prom king boyfriend. It ends with the boy driving home alone, sporting a big shiner and an even bigger smile. It's like a John Hughes film condensed down to one minute, and I loved every second of it.


FUMBLES

Jared's still thin
What should have been 15 minutes of fame has stretched into 15 years for Jared, a regular guy who lost a lot of weight purportedly thanks to Subway. The shtick is stale, but that didn't stop Subway from celebrating Jared's tenure in its first Super Bowl ad since 2005. Yawn. Would have much preferred a Blimpie's ad starring Lutz.

Panty raid
Rookie Super Bowl advertiser Speed Stick made its big-game debut with an instantly forgettable ad about a guy getting caught holding a pair of underwear belonging to an attractive female laundromat customer. D'oh! If I were responsible for this lackluster ad, I'd be sweating as much as the guy in charge of the Superdome's lights.

Something's fishy
Singing fish aren't funny or interesting. Neither is this commercial featuring a fish serenading a bottle of Beck's Sapphire to a smooth version of "No Diggity." It should have been set to the sound of flushing $3.8 million down the toilet.

Big kiss
I would have rather not seen a close up of model Bar Refaeli kissing that guy, and I certainly didn't need to hear it.


PERSONAL FOAL
As if Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" isn't tear-jerker enough, Anheuser-Busch took it up a notch with this touching ad about a baby Clydesdale and its trainer. The two reunite on the streets of Chicago (actually Los Angeles doubling as Chicago). The stellar spot was directed by Jake Scott, whose dad, Ridley, oversaw one of the best Super Bowl ads of all time: Apple's "1984."


PENALTY
Yes, sex sells. But enough with the ads that show a beautiful woman reducing men to single-minded idiots dragging their knuckles through their own drool pools. A Motorola commercial had Megan Fox causing mayhem by using her device to send a photo of herself in the tub, covered in suds. More suds came from supermodel Kate Upton, whose Super Bowl preview ad had her blowing bubbles in slo-mo while guys washing a Mercedes went ga-ga. "That really targets their key demographic: 14-year-old boys making $500,000 a year," quipped Stephen Colbert.


UPON FURTHER REVIEW
A couple of spots came under fire -- unjustly, in my opinion -- for having racist overtones. An Arab-American group took issue with the way Arabs were portrayed -- as "foolish camel jockeys," one told Reuters -- in Coke's frenetic "Chase" ad, which pit showgirls, cowboys and a "Mad Max" contingent in a race across the desert. Volkswagen's "Get Happy" got heat for showing an office worker from Minnesota speaking in a Jamaican accent. One critic called it "blackface with voices." Chill, mon.


MOST IMPROVED
Chicago-based Cars.com hired the Chicago office of McGarryBowen to come up with this year's ad about a car-shopping couple who doesn't want any drama. They get it anyway when the car dealer hands them what looks like a puppy but is really a baby wolf. It's not revolutionary but it gets the message across. And it sure is a step up from last year's creepy Cars.com ad where a shopper's confidence springs out of his shoulder in the form of a second head.

Other notable mentions:

Tide's miracle stain

Clever ad but must be painful for San Francisco fans to watch.
Call: Touchdown

Skechers GOrun 2: Man vs. Cheetah

This one is even better than the company's last Super Bowl commercial featuring a cute French bulldog wearing Skechers. The year before that was Kim Kardashian in Skechers, so they keep improving.
The ad is a blend of bona fide nature footage (gazelles really do wink) combined with green-screen technology (the runner tackles and hog ties a life-sized stuffed cheetah toy).
Call: Touchdown

Hyundai: Epic Playdate

The Flaming Lips help a suburban family jazz up a lazy day with the band's trademark over-the-top antics: riding in a space bubble zorb, shooting lasers and launching confetti canons. It's a fun, upbeat ad but not one that I'm dying to watch over and over again.
Call: Touchdown

AXE Apollo: Lifeguard

AXE is launching its Super Bowl debut with a satisfying spot about a woman getting rescued from a shark by a handsome lifeguard. Said life saver is no match for a geeky guy in an astronaut outfit who's walking on the beach. Its young, sexy, irreverent tone is in line with the AXE brand of men's care products. It's a clever way to lure viewers to AXEApollo.com, where they can register for a chance to win a trip into space.
Call: Touchdown

Oreo's whisper fight

One of the few surprises of the night (I've never seen so many ads released in advance of the game), and it worked.
Call: Touchdown

The Super Bowl is the one television event where you don't use commercial breaks to go to the bathroom or grab a cold one from the fridge. Otherwise you might miss the action playing out on the world's biggest advertising stage.

Super Bowl spots are the game-within-a-game, the chance for creative ad agencies to dazzle 110 million-plus viewers huddled around the TV. Opportunities like this don't come along often -- or cheaply. CBS charged a reported $3.8 million on average for 30-second ads in tonight's sold-out show.

Consumers overwhelming prefer funny Super Bowl commercials (81 percent, according to a Nielsen survey). One out of four surveyed enjoy sentimental spots, which reminds me: Keep a tissue handy for tonight's Budweiser's Clydesdale ad about a trainer and his foal. "Dudes, I"m not crying! It's just the onions in the chili!"

As usual, a lot of the big game's ads were leaked ahead of time on the internet to gin up interest. You can check out many of those below, which I've labeled either "touchdown" or "fumble." I'll be updating this post with additional ads throughout the game. When it's over, I'll post my picks for best and worst. Tune into WLS AM-890 at 8 a.m. Monday morning when I'll be Monday morning-quarterbacking the ad action with Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft.

Game on.

Ode to farmers

Powerful in its straightforwardness, stripped-down authenticity and subtle patriotism, Ram Truck delivered with its moving two-minute long love letter to those who till the land. It features original photography and the late broadcaster Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" monologue, read by the legendary broadcaster some three decades ago.
Call: Touchdown

Taco Bell: Viva Young

This year, no Super Bowl ad so far has made me laugh as hard as this one chronicling a wild night on the town with a group of crafty retirement home residents, set to the Spanish version of "We Are Young" by fun.
The old guy getting the tattoo is priceless, but I'm still not going to eat at Taco Bell. Gracias anyway.
Call: Touchdown

Mercedes-Benz: Kate Upton in Slo-Mo

Yes, sex sells. But I'm fed up with ads where men are led to drag their knuckles through their own drool pools because of some titillating woman. This one has supermodel Kate Upton in daisy dukes, jiggling and tousling her hair in slow motion while distracted guys try to wash a Mercedes. "That really targets their key demographic: 14-year-old boys making $500,000 a year," quipped Stephen Colbert.
Call: Fumble

Budweiser: Brotherhood

As if Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" isn't a tear-jerker enough, Anheuser-Busch takes it up a notch with this touching commercial celebrating the bond between a Clydesdale foal and its trainer as they reunite on the streets of Chicago (actually Los Angeles, standing in as Chicago.) It also was shot at Budweiser's Clydesdale breeding facility at Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Missouri.
Don Jeanes plays the trainer (he portrayed Neil Armstrong in "Transformers") and the ad is directed by Jake Scott. Jake is the son of Ridley Scott, who famously directed one of, if not the best, Super Bowl ad of all time: Apple's "1984."
Call: Touchdown

Volkswagen: Get in. Get Happy

This ad featuring an office worker from Minnesota with a Jamaican accent has taken some heat for having racing overtones. One critic likened it to "blackface with voices." I say chill out, mon.
My only gripe with the ad is that it's not as good as Volkswagen's previous big game spots, such as "The Force" with a pint-sized Darth Vader and "The Dog Strikes Back."
Call: Touchdown

Coke: Chase

This frenetic ad showing a race in the desert for a giant bottle of Coke pits showgirls, cowboys and a Mad Max gang against one another. It also came under fire -- unjustly, in my opinion -- for being racist. An Arab-American group took issue with the portrayal of Arabs in the ad's opening, telling Reuters they were shown as "foolish camel jockeys" who have no chance to win the race.
In another example of advertisers embracing social engagement, Coke asked the public to vote on who should win the race, with the results being unveiled during the Super Bowl ad. (The Arabs weren't one of the choices, just the showgirls, cowboys and Mad Maxers.)
I don't care who wins the race, which means I don't care about the ad. But I will give props to Pepsi Next for being quick on the draw and responding with this clever spoof.
Call: Fumble

Skechers GOrun 2: Man vs. Cheetah

This one is even better than the company's last Super Bowl commercial featuring a cute French bulldog wearing Skechers. The year before that was Kim Kardashian in Skechers, so they keep improving.
The ad is a blend of bona fide nature footage (gazelles really do wink) combined with green-screen technology (the runner tackles and hog ties a life-sized stuffed cheetah toy).
Call: Touchdown

Beck's Sapphire: Serenade

Singing fish aren't funny, interesting or moving, and neither is this commercial where a black fish serenades a bottle of Beck's Sapphire to a smooth version of "No Diggity." I certainly didn't dig it.
Call: Fumble

Audi: Prom Night

This one might just end up my winner. Boy goes to prom alone, marches up to prom queen and plants one on her in the middle of the dance floor -- and in front of her angry prom king boyfriend. The last shot is the boy, driving home alone in his car, with a big shiner and an even bigger smile. With few words and little time, this ad manages to tell a more compelling story than some full-length feature films. I love it.
Call: Touchdown

Hyundai: Epic Playdate

The Flaming Lips help a suburban family jazz up a lazy day with the band's trademark over-the-top antics: riding in a space bubble zorb, shooting lasers and launching confetti canons. It's a fun, upbeat ad but not one that I'm dying to watch over and over again.
Call: Touchdown

AXE Apollo: Lifeguard

AXE is launching its Super Bowl debut with a satisfying spot about a woman getting rescued from a shark by a handsome lifeguard. Said life saver is no match for a geeky guy in an astronaut outfit who's walking on the beach. Its young, sexy, irreverent tone is in line with the AXE brand of men's care products. It's a clever way to lure viewers to AXEApollo.com, where they can register for a chance to win a trip into space.
Call: Touchdown

Speed Stick: Unattended Laundry

Speed Stick is one of the rookie advertisers making its Super Bowl debut with this instantly forgettable ad about a fed-up guy who empties a laundromat's drier and is caught in a "Three's Company-like" situation, holding a hot woman's panties in his hands. There must be a lot of better ways to spend $3.8 million.
Call: Fumble

Mercedes-Benz: Soul

Unlike Mercedes' slow-motion car washing ad, this one operates under the premise that less is more when it comes to Kate Upton. She, Usher and Willem Dafoe (playing the devil -- who else?) are all featured in this clever spot about a man ready to make Faustian bargain for a new Mercedes -- and all that comes with it -- until he sees the car's sticker price is less than $30,000. Excellent use of the Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil."
Call: Touchdown

Subway: Jared keeps the weight off

What should have been 15 minutes of fame has stretched into 15 years. That's how long Jared, a regular guy who lost a lot of weight purportedly thanks to Subway, has been a spokesman for the sandwich chain. Subway's first Super Bowl ad since 2005 celebrates Jared's tenure with a bunch of celebrities -- Apolo Ohno, Laila Ali, Kevin from "The Office" (Brian Baumgartner) -- congratulating him for keeping the weight off. Duly noted, Subway, but the Jared shtick is getting stale.
Call: Fumble

The year's most-watched television event -- more than 111 million tuned in to last year's Super Bowl -- understandably attracts a lot of commercials. Judging the ad world's winners and losers can be every bit as fun as watching the gridiron action.

I'll be blogging about the hits and misses during Sunday's game, and I'll be Monday morning quarterbacking the commercials on, well, Monday morning at 8:05 a.m. on WLS-AM 890 on the Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft show.

In the meantime, check out this crowd-sourced commercial (it came from a contest winner in Florida) for Dunder Mifflin paper. It will air Super Bowl Sunday but only in Scranton, Penn., home of "The Office."

Lots of ads have already ended up on the Internet. Any predictions on which will take off and which will get some Don Draper-wannabe a pink slip?

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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