Review: Super Bowl Halftime Show, Commercials

Feb 5, 2018
Originally published on February 6, 2018 11:18 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Super Bowl LII was a terrific football game, especially if you're an Eagles fan. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans was watching for the halftime show and the commercials between the plays on the field.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPER BOWL LII)

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: (Singing) Come on, if you know what's good...

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: The rumors about Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl halftime performance may have been more interesting than what he actually delivered. There were no appearances by Janet Jackson or members of Timberlake's old band, N'SYNC. And buzz that Timberlake would sing with a hologram of Prince also turned out to be wrong. Instead, he sang a momentary duet with footage of the Minneapolis-born pop icon from his hit film "Purple Rain" projected onto a huge sheet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPER BOWL LII)

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AND PRINCE: (Singing) I'll never beat you. I'll never lie. And if you're evil, I'll forgive you bye and bye. 'Cause you...

DEGGANS: Just like Timberlake's performance, the commercials for this Super Bowl were mostly smooth and unsurprising. There were no big stunts, major political statements or button-pushing humor. One of the most talked about ads featured Morgan Freeman and "Game Of Thrones" star Peter Dinklage. They were lip-syncing rap songs by Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes for Mountain Dew and Doritos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AT ME NOW")

BUSTA RHYMES: (Rapping) Let's go. 'Cause I'm feeling like I'm running and I'm feeling like I gotta get away, get away, get away better know that I don't and I won't ever stop 'cause you know I gotta win every day, day. Go.

DEGGANS: The cleverest commercials played with the expectations of savvy TV audiences, making viewers think they were watching one kind of ad only to deliver another. Tide, with "Stranger Things" actor David Harbour as pitchman, pulled this off best with commercials sprinkled throughout the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

DAVID HARBOUR: (As character) Yeah. Just your typical Super Bowl car ad - or a hilarious beer ad.

(LAUGHTER)

HARBOUR: (As character) But it's a Tide ad.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) What?

HARBOUR: (As character) It's a Tide ad.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) What makes it a Tide ad?

HARBOUR: (As character) There are no stains.

DEGGANS: One ad that generated a lot of backlash online used a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an ad for Dodge Ram trucks.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: If you want to be recognized - wonderful. If you want to be great - wonderful.

DEGGANS: Here's a tip for advertisers - don't make beloved civil rights icons look like they're shilling for products posthumously. My favorite commercial aired right before the big game. Insurance company MassMutual offered an ad featuring everyday people doing nice things for other people while singing The Pretenders song "I'll Stand By You."

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) I'll stand by you, won't let nobody hurt you. I'll stand by you.

DEGGANS: At a time when so many seem so divided, that's not a bad message for TV's biggest audience. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL STAND BY YOU")

THE PRETENDERS: (Singing) I'll stand by you. I'll stand by you, won't let nobody hurt you. I'll stand by you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.