Searching in vain for 'Super' in Super Bowl
TODAY'S FEATURES SUNDAY'S FEATURES CRITIC'S CHOICE TODAY'S SERIES SUNDAY'S SERIES BY KEVIN McDONOUGH,
CBS, a network that dominates in ratings and total viewership, has won the rights to broadcast Super Bowl XLVII (6:35 p.m. Sunday). Barring a sudden seismic shift in viewing habits, it will be the most-watched television event of the year.
Just why it will be remains a mystery. Having watched at least XXXV of the previous XLVI Super Bowls, I can name only a handful that amounted to exciting football. I'm assuming that the vast majority of people in the audience have no emotional stake in the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers. So why are they watching this instead of, say, the 11-hour marathon of "Alaska: The Last Frontier" (4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, Discovery)?
Some will say that the commercials are the real stars. And, if so, I say we need better stars. If watching the newest incarnation of a Doritos commercial is your viewing highlight of the year, then it's time, in the immortal words of William Shatner, for you to get a life.
Seriously, to everyone besides the Mad Men who created the commercials, the drivers of Doritos delivery trucks and the investors in whatever corporate behemoth now owns Doritos, a chip commercial should be seen as an annoyance, an impediment to viewing, something to be overheard while taking a bathroom break. Hardly as an end in itself.
I refuse to believe that viewers who have invested in TiVos, DVRs or Rokus to avoid commercials 364 days a year will exult in commercials on this, our holy Super Bowl Sunday Holiday.
And is it me, or have Super Bowl commercials only grown more idiotic since YouTube upped the ante on dazzling viewers with short attention spans? Oooh, there's a baby doing something outrageous! Wow, a flying cat! Oh, that frisky Betty White! Look at that voluptuous woman degrading herself on behalf of GoDaddy!
Is everyone pretending to be 12 years old?
To recap: We're breathlessly told that tens of millions of people will sit enraptured (and, more than likely, overfed) before a game that does not interest them, while enthusiastically celebrating commercials that they would much rather avoid. Boy, that sounds like a good time!
n The prospect of the big game on Sunday moves some of the weekend's more eventful programming to Saturday night. Angela Bassett ("What's Love Got to Do With It?") stars in "Betty & Coretta" (8 p.m. today, Lifetime), along with the movie's co-producer Mary J. Blige. They play Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, the wives of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. (Malik Yoba) and Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre).
The recent HBO documentary "Ethel" mostly covered Ethel Kennedy's life with her husband and allowed just scant moments of discussion concerning the years after Robert F. Kennedy's murder. But much of "Betty & Coretta" takes place after their husbands were assassinated in 1965 and 1968, respectively, territory that may be unfamiliar to many viewers.
Handsomely produced and well acted, the film begins with the dedication of a statue to King in Washington, D.C., with clips from a speech by President Barack Obama. This establishes the film's monumental tone. Much of the dialogue sounds like snippets from eloquent speeches. Too many of the early moments involve grand historical re-enactments. Even stolen moments of conversation between the women involve politics and talk of the movement. "Betty & Coretta" has an air of reverence about it and, as such, will appeal to the faithful, but may seem rather stiff and mannered to the casual viewer.
n I'm sure the folks at HBO know what they're doing. But it seems odd to move episodes of "Girls" (10:05 p.m., TV-MA) and "Enlightened" (10:35 p.m., TV-MA) to Saturday night to avoid a conflict with the Super Bowl. Do they really think there's much of an audience overlap? Both series will also air on Sunday (see below), but as repeats.
n While many programs associate organized crime with urban syndicates and the florid legends of La Cosa Nostra, "Dixie Mafia" (10 p.m. today, Discovery, TV-14) looks at criminals centered in Biloxi, Miss., who fought pitched battles with authorities in the 1960s and who have regrouped into a new and dangerous gang.
n Some years back, an urban legend grew that Super Bowl Sunday brought about a spate of domestic abuse. It wasn't true. But the Investigation Discovery network does not let that stand in the way of its cheeky counterprogramming, an 11-hour marathon of "Wives With Knives" (6 p.m. Sunday, TV-14), tales of women wronged or just plain angry, who go after their hubbies with sharp objects, often leaving them dead.
On a similar note, there's also a "Snapped" (12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Oxygen) marathon to savor.
Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning star in director Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation of "War of the Worlds" (8:30 p.m., ABC).
"NFL Honors" (9 p.m., CBS) heaps praise on the overpaid.
Southern cuisine in Pennsylvania on "Kitchen Nightmares" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
Minnie Driver, Stephen Merchant, Clare Balding and the Script appear on "The Graham Norton Show" (10:15 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
A tradition for nine years, "The Puppy Bowl" (3 p.m., Animal Planet) returns.
"Live From New York: The First Five Years of Saturday Night Live" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14) discusses the show's beginnings.
After last week's tragedy, Cora gives Robert the cold shoulder on "Downton Abbey" on "Masterpiece Classic" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-PG, channels 33 and 12).
Sherlock chases Ennis while Watson faces eviction on "Elementary" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14, subject to delay pending the end of the Super Bowl).
Hannah tries to throw a grown-up dinner party on "Girls" (10 p.m., HBO, r, TV-MA).
Amy tries to use social media as her soapbox on "Enlightened" (10:30 p.m., HBO, r, TV-MA).
Still sporting the best/worst title of any made-for-TV movie, the 1996 shocker "Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?" (8 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime Movie Network) stars Tori Spelling.
Two helpings of "Cops" (8 p.m., TV-PG, and 8:30 p.m., TV-14) ... Bullies on "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG).
Cruz comes clean on "Chicago Fire" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) ... Tutuola's brother assaults a priest on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).
"Betty White's Off Their Rockers" (8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... A bowling buddy goes bad on "The Simpsons" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) ... Halloween pranks on "America's Funniest Home Videos" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... A cruise to nowhere on "Bob's Burgers" (8:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG).
Climb every mountain on "Family Guy" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... A good skate on "Shark Tank" (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) ... An extended family on "American Dad" (9:30 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) ... On two episodes of "Modern Family" (ABC, r, TV-PG): Haley's orientation (10 p.m.), a delicate procedure (10:30 p.m.).