The Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial Awards!
Most Secret Something About Nothing: The Seinfeld Reunion
Andy Greenwald: On Friday I wrote a purely speculative post musing about the real reason Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Larry David were recently seen filming together on the Upper West Side. Midway through last night’s shellacking, we got our answer: It was an ad for Jerry’s enjoyably low-key web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. And though it wasn’t a full-scale reunion, it captured the spirit, if not the spark, of the original series. Mainly because this was absolutely a commercial about nothing. The bulk of the hyper-expensive spot burned through money like J. Peterman through the African scrub brush, lingering almost fetishistically on a banal chat about George’s misbehavior at the Wassersteins’ party. Not even the sudden appearance of Newman could help shake the feeling that the ad was yada-yada-ing the best part. An offer to watch the rest of the non-adventure online only confirmed it.
Still, as wrinkly as our former sitcom friends appeared, it was hard not to get at least a whiff of the new from the whole thing. I mean, a Super Bowl ad — for a web series? This would have been incomprehensible just a decade ago. The whole point of a web series, as every good joke in HBO’s Hello Ladies recently reminded us, was that they cost nothing to produce. (Homestar Runner, for all its charms, would have struggled to pay the same rate as the DIY catheter company that single-handedly sponsors My Grandmother’s Ravioli.) What does Seinfeld — and sponsor Acura — having the cash to buy a Super Bowl spot mean for the struggling UCB alum trying to get noticed on YouTube? Probably not much. Everyone already knows that Jerry Seinfeld is the master of his domain name.
Most Heteronormative Perversion of a Delightful Candy Bar: Butterfinger
Sean Fennessey: The very premise of this commercial — that chocolate and peanut butter (a.k.a. “Nut But & Choco”) are two forces that could be drawn into a flawed and possibly loveless marriage is absurd. These are two of our greatest creations and they are unconquerable. But accepting this premise, that chocolate and peanut butter are a couple having problems that can only be allayed by having a third party called Mr. Butterfinger nail “Choco” is metaphysically confusing. In this equation, is Mr. Butterfinger the actualized formation of a candy bar? Is he a series of factory workers transmogrified into a human sex machine? Is he simply the essence of candy? Nestlé at large? This makes no sense. Surely there isn’t a soul who enjoyed this wanton display of sugarcoated aberration.
Best Middle Finger to the Antiquated Idea of Selling Out While Riding on the Back of an Eagle Soaring Above a Proud Metropolis That Has Seen Better Days: Bob Dylan for Chrysler
Mark Lisanti: “Is there anything more American than America?” asks Bob Dylan, as a flag-swaddled woman standing on the rocky coast unfurls the Stars and Stripes and basks in the gently lapping majesty of one of our two finest American oceans.
Well, is there? The imagery that follows turns the America up to 11, rips off the knob, and throws it into the cockpit of an F-16 headed for the deck of the USS Mission Accomplished: children sprinting through a sepia-toned instafilter to a dusty gas station; a diner called DINER serving up home-style cooking with a pot of hot coffee; the silhouette of a carnival ride at any state fair of your choosing; a fastball engulfed by lens flare. Dylan’s guitar. Route 66. Pickup basketball. James Dean. Motorcycles. Tattoos. Rosie the Riveter. Some dude getting thrown off a horse. An apple pie in an Uncle Sam top hat whose top unhinges and detonates a 40-minute fireworks spectacular. The Rock.
Big bags of TV endorsement money with cartoon dollar signs on them.
Dylan laughing about the cartoon dollar signs. They’re cute.
There are also things that are decidedly not more American than America: German beer. Swiss watches. Phones from Asia. We may have conceded these minor industries to foreign usurpers, but make no mistake about what the curiously intelligible folk-poet is telling you:
America will build your car.
Well, not all of America. Chrysler-America. Chevy-America spent all of its Super Bowl money to watch cows fuck. Perverts.
Most Promiscuous Use of Western Iconography; Best Use of Bovine Copulation as a Metaphor for Automobile Virility: Chevy (Double Winner!)
Bryan Curtis: Got a pencil, cowpokes? Let’s see how many Western totems tonight’s Chevy Silverado commercial managed to tick off. Truck. Man. Bull. Lonesomeness. Friday Night Lights (the movie) elevator music. According to a Car and Driverreview, Chevy had been setting us up for this, with a lot of very straight Silverado ads with titles like “Her Horse.” The Super Bowl ad demands two things: funny animals and sex. Which is why we were left with a horny bull and a cow licking her lips.
netw3rk: Among the commercials invoking cancer, homecomings, and puppies in an attempt to blatantly manipulate your emotions for the purposes of buying products is this little number from Chevrolet in which a rancher transports a bull for purposes of procreation, so that this great country of ours might stay up to our double chins in hamburger for the foreseeable future. Here we see that Chevy has finally broken away from their usual, solemn “A man. A man and his truck. Panama” narration over guitar chords as open as a western sunset. The only thing missing is the narrator affecting a Borat-ian accent at the end to deliver the line “Chevrolet: strong like bull.”
Most Objectified Body: David Beckham for H&M
Emily Yoshida: Reviewing last year’s ads to get a little idea of context for this year’s crop, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the whooshing absence of T&A. This is the advertising real estate, after all, which last year brought us Bar Refaeli frenching a nerd for GoDaddy and Nina Agdal getting intimate with a fish sandwich. This year we have Scarlett Johansson baring some shoulder and John Stamos’s yogurt lap. Let me be perfectly clear: This is not a complaint, though, I’ll be honest, I feel only slightly less dirty misting up at a Microsoft commercial as I do gawking at Kate Upton’s misted décolletage. But I was kind of delighted to realize, as the game wore on, that the most objectified-for-our-pleasure body of Super Bowl XLVIII was not a 19-year-old Brazilian swimsuit model, but David Beckham, parkouring across an overcast cityscape, in a big hurry to get out of the H&M underwear he was purportedly advertising. Nicolas Winding Refn directed the spot, and the extended cut is above should you need to examine it more closely. Between this and his work with the Gos, I feel like Refn really has an eye for this kind of thing. I’m just saying, if I have Becks-Posh money and need to bring the spark back to my marriage, I’m commissioning a Refn-helmed vanity video of my beloved.
Best Repurposing of Warehoused Bug Repellent as an Aphrodisiac: Axe Peace
Dan Fierman: It is as the Book of Revelation has foretold. A Bro shall lead them. He shall be a sweet-smelling Bro. Not a sweaty, nasty LaxBro. Not a Bro who uses mere deodorant or, dear Lord forgive us, a cologne-wearing Bro. No, this Bro shall be chill. He shall be cloaked in the very mist of Axe. And he shall end all war and suffering and very carefully appropriate horrifying and extremely loaded imagery that has deeply depressed generations of human beings to sell shitty aerosolized chemical musk.
As it is written. Amen.
Best Musical Coda: Morpheus for Kia
Holly Anderson: In the opera Turandot, a leading man is redeemed at the last possible minute by a love that both germinates with astonishing speed and is granted unlikely powers of transformation, but not before a bunch of people die painful deaths for dumb reasons. And now, for unrelated reasons, the character who lived through all three Matrix movies and just wants to buy a boat. REALLY wants to buy a boat. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. It IS better than Cats, though not better than Kia’s planned 2015 follow-up, which will feature Jason Bourne as the Mikado.
Most Audacious Disrespect for Our Intelligence: Subway
Amos Barshad: Look, I know America isn’t necessarily still the paragon for an enlightened civilization. I know we’ve got major educational lags in the maths and sciences, and that we’ve got to look long and hard for solutions for repairing this fraying educational system. As our man Will McAvoy once said, “The only thing we lead the world in is ‘number of angels believed in per capita’ — but East Belarus is gaining fast!” (Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing).
But for Subway to take up a prime chunk of national consciousness in order to parade around the soul-discarded husks of some of our finest athletes so they can look us right in the eyes and tell us we can neither BELIEVE nor IMAGINE the groundbreaking futuristic mouthfeel design of a Fritos-encrusted sandwich — well, good sirs, that’s a bridge too far. My fellow Americans and I may not be nimble-minded scientists, no wiz mathematicians, no no no. But I’m pretty sure we still do have the mental fortitude to CONCEPTUALIZE what BREAD WITH CHIPS tastes like.
Biggest Missed Opportunity for Wahlburgers Synergy: T4
Zach Dionne: Marky! You wanna do computerized video game robot movies? It’s cool, old buddy, old bro! But are you really gonna come out here, during our most superb Bowl, and look so serious about it, now that we know you co-own a restaurant called Wahlburgers and that you serve Wahlburger hamburgers there and that there’s now a reality show about this establishment? Talk to Will Smith about synergy, man. Get some “Wild Wild West” song + Wild Wild West movie magic happening here. Get a Wahlburger in the next ad and I’ll know you’re ready for business. But if I see you just punching out another Transformering robo-menace without reaching for a Wahlburger straight after, I quit.
Best Subtweet to the Puppy Bowl: Audi
Tess Lynch: I’d still adopt a McLachlan-endorsed Doberhuahua, despite this Audi PSA. I want a dog that looks like Scrappy-Doo and doesn’t take any shit.
Most Persuasive Use of Muppets to Celebrate the Achievements of Automotive Science or Whatever: Toyota
Sarah Larimer: Is the Toyota Highlander a good SUV? Real talk: It doesn’t matter. I do not care. I already have a car — which is perfectly fine despite its lack of power locks and somewhat dodgy air-conditioning system — but if I did not, I would buy a Toyota Highlander because the Muppets told me to. It can fit Animal’s drum kit in the back, and Rowlf seemed to like it, so it’s cool with me. I would totally drive that Muppet-endorsed car forever, playing this on Terry Crews’s radio on repeat. And also this. And this, because I don’t just love the classics, guys, I dig the new stuff, too. I bet the singing vegetables would be down for a road trip. And the chickens. (Probably not you, though, Terry Crews.) (Sorry. I just don’t really understand what happened to your shirt.) (Feel free to invite your neighbor along, though.)
Most Relatable Ad: TurboTax
Patricia Lee: The TurboTax commercial starts off simple and unassuming. It opens with some guy — an average Joe wearing a gray crewneck, a plaid button-up, and sporting a barely-there-but-trying-hard-to-be-there mustache. He is The Nerd, The Hipster, The Guy Who Just Got Dumped … The Guy Whose Football Team Lost Weeks Ago. Cue empathy. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who are either Broncos (or even luckier) Seahawks fans, you know the feeling (and even if you are, you know the feeling from the past). Sure, the Super Bowl is entertaining every year (er, almost every year), but nothing beats the feeling of seeing your team as one of the final two standing. And this ad nails it right on the head. That guy Sean? Yeah, him? Sure, he has nice stats, cool moves, and an awesome highlight tape … but he also sucks. Why? Because he stole your girl (along with your heart, your dignity, and your happiness). And that feeling of being one-upped and watching from the sideline grimacing as that person hollers and brags and basically rubs it in your face is something everyone can identify with. (Unless you can’t. Then you’re Sean, and you suck.) The fact this was a TurboTax ad totally blew me out of the water, but hey, taxes — relatable. I found myself nodding knowingly when I heard that mention of a tax refund (HALLELUJAH) and saw the sly side smile creep across our average Joe’s face (thank youuuuu Uncle Sam). Seriously, what could be more relatable than taxes, tax refunds, losing football teams, and gray T-shirts?
Best Return of Jack Bauer: 24
Rembert Browne: Holy
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes