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Originally published February 1, 2015 at 9:21 PM | Page modified February 2, 2015 at 12:17 PM

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Super Bowl is NBC’s commercial for itself

TV critic Rob Owen says self-promotion hit new heights at Super Bowl XLIX.


Special to The Seattle Times

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Yes, teams from Seattle and New England played in “Super Bowl XLIX,” but NBC’s coverage, particularly during the pregame show, was almost as much about NBC or NBCUniversal properties as it was about either football team.

A Savannah Guthrie softball interview with President Obama turned out to be a teaser for an extended interview airing this week on NBC’s “Today.”

An interview with actor/Seahawks fan Chris Pratt, who grew up in Lake Stevens, was mostly just a promo for Pratt’s “Jurassic World,” produced by NBC sister company Universal Pictures. (It also showed corporate priorities: There was scant mention of Pratt’s role on NBC’s soon-to-conclude “Parks and Recreation.”)

NBC played clips of “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon using puppies to predict who would win the game — the puppies preferred dog food in a Seahawks-labeled bowl; they got it wrong.

NBC’s Josh Elliott tried to connect halftime performer Katy Perry to the Seahawks by asking her about quarterback Russell Wilson, but it sounded like she only met him once, saying “the couple of moments I’ve had with him, he’s real humble. He likes pizza.”

Self-promotion and commercialism shouldn’t be too surprising. Networks always look to capitalize on their hefty Super Bowl investment, but NBC’s efforts were particularly glaring. And the network’s overabundance of shots of the Grand Canyon (it exists!), presumably because Phoenix is not as picturesque, was just odd.

With a low-scoring first half until the final minute — there was much talk about the Seahawks’ injuries and high praise for Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews — interest in commercials reigned on social media.

Microsoft returned to the Super Bowl with two spots, including a heart-warming ad about using technology to help a child walk using prosthetic legs under the “Empowering Us All” tagline. It was the second ad during the game to feature a person with prosthetic legs; a Toyota Camry ad featured Paralympic athlete and actress Amy Purdy.

Coke revamped the notion of its old “I Want to Teach the World to Sing” spot for a new era, suggesting that spilling Coke into a computer could cure the world of Internet trolls and conflict with the hashtag #MakeItHappy (clearly some players at the Super Bowl didn’t get the message; a fistfight erupted in the end zone in the game’s closing seconds).

Nationwide enraged the Internet with a bummer of a spot about the many ways a child could die accidentally in your home, including being crushed by a big-screen TV, just like the one you’re watching the game on. Competitor esurance got a better reception by resurrecting “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White (Bryan Cranston) for one of its spots.

At game time, when the Seahawks ran onto the field to “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve, Twitter exploded in confusion.

“I’m left to assume the Seahawks were watching the climactic sequence of ‘Cruel Intentions’ right before taking the field,” tweeted “Arrow” star Stephen Amell.

“Wait, did @Seahawks run out to ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by Verve? Is this the 1990s?! It’s only alive in PORTLAND. #FeministBookStoreSaysWhat,” tweeted the real-life owners of In Other Words feminist bookstore in Portland via the “Portlandia” Twitter handle.

If the first half was a little lackluster until the exciting end of the second quarter, Katy Perry enlivened the broadcast with an entertaining halftime acid-trip extravaganza that began with her riding into the stadium singing “Roar,” dressed in a flame-print dress astride what appeared to be Optimus Prime’s giant pet tiger.

Live chess pieces and Lenny Kravitz followed, and then the piece de resistance: Perry, clad in a beach-ball bikini, singing alongside dancing sharks, palm trees and beach balls that brought to mind a cross between “Yo Gabba Gabba” and the Sid & Marty Krofft 1970s Saturday morning kid’s shows.

Perry wrapped up her performance by dancing on what looked like a giant Simon game with Missy Elliott and the Tron dancers and then soaring over the field suspended from NBC’s “The More You Know” fireworks-spouting star.

Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV



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