Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Bruno Mars and Radio Shack bail out a lame Super Bowl

By Jeff Pearlman
updated 11:09 AM EST, Mon February 3, 2014
Bruno Mars performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Bruno Mars performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, February 2, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
HIDE CAPTION
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
Bruno Mars performs at Super Bowl halftime
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Pearlman: Super Bowl and ads mostly awful this years, but there were winners amid losers
  • He says stodgy Radio Shack had one of best ads, featuring 80's icons in ironic scenario
  • He says Schwarzenegger Budweiser ad painful to watch, Cheerios a brave reprise
  • Pearlman: Bruno Mars was a big winner, with terrific, energetic half-time performance

Editor's note: Jeff Pearlman blogs at jeffpearlman.com. His most recent book is "Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton." Follow him on twitter @jeffpearlman.

(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.

Yawn.

Yawn.

Yawn.

Thank goodness for Radio Shack.

Jeff Pearlman
Jeff Pearlman

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 A store that feels as outdated as legwarmers and "Saved By the Bell."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 from celebs 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

Puppies, Beckham in viral Super Bowl ads
Super Bowl ads you'll never see on TV
Stopping illegal sex at the Super Bowl

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 with 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.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeff Pearlman.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT