My writing friend, Lesley Hazleton, who blogs on religion, politics and existence as The Accidental Theologist recently noted that the Super Bowl is really the fraternal twin of that other big-bucks rite of communal television worship, the Oscars.
Of course, we all know that the Super Bowl is about money — always has been and never tried to hide it. Indeed, that’s what pro sports is about, by definition. It’s not a bunch of plucky teens in the street with the QB Pat Steenberge saying “Billy, you head to the fire hydrant and hook in; Jerry, go long.” Nor is it lite-beer-guzzling thirty- and forty-something guys in colorful orange uniforms donated by American Ambulance battling Warren Plumbing Supplies, encouraging their pitcher with “No batter, no batter!”
No, pro sports is an entertainment business featuring millionaires who quibble about whether they are willing to perform for $15 million when they really need to make $17 million before they could even decently show their face around town. It’s never been a secret that it’s strictly “show me the money.”
Now the Oscars…we’ve always felt that’s a different story.
Movies are supposedly about art — well, perhaps the first outing before the project becomes a “franchise.” For sure, we find many plucky adults who put their time and effort into local acting enterprises without expecting multi-million dollar payouts (plus endorsements.) Many of these otherwise sane grownups do it just for the love of expression and being a part of an artistic endeavor. I know a couple of ’em.
Just check wherever you get your movie news; it’s more about the weekly box office take than the actual movie.
Which brings me back to the most recent Super Bowl.
As someone who has always enjoyed seeing the real (and attempted) creativity of SB commercials, I looked forward this year once again to being entertained, delighted and even possibly inspired by the efforts — only to find a vast wasteland of ill-ventured, lame, pointless and over-ballyhooed drivel.
Perhaps most disappointing was the rash of celebrity sell-outs hawking merch that one would have thought was below their dignity as artistes.
According to USA Today, at least 38 celebrities appeared or were slated to appear in various commercial confections this year, up 100 percent from just two years ago.
Liam Neeson for a TV set, my (former) hero Christopher Walken (“I gotta have more cowbell!”) for a car, Steve Harvey for a phone…Drake…Alec Baldwin…Willem Dafoe…Steven Tyler…Harvey Keitel… Kevin Hart… Ryan Reynolds… Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen…Serena Williams…
Helen Mirren (looking bizarrely like she should be on the $1 bill) giving the lamest Over-Acting 101 histrionics ever perpetrated, about drunk driving.
I know some will disagree with my view of the Mirren debacle, but it seems to me that there were about a half-dozen classier and more effective ways to pull that off. For one thing, I wouldn’t use Mirren. If I did use Mirren, I wouldn’t have her overtly shilling for Bud — I’d have a simple blackout screen with a modest logo. And if I did use Britain’s acting icon, I’d have her sitting there, quietly steaming (see? acting!) and then have her utter a single, simple shocker, like “Drinking and driving? Don’t be an utter douche.” (OK, I didn’t have $6M and six months to work on that one.)
It seems that Oscars and Super Bowl have finally merged into one large steaming mélange of “Oscar Bowl.”
As my former ad agency boss, Bob Sherman, complained to our team one day about a proposed direct mail piece, “It looks like you performed the labors of Hercules…and gave birth to a gnat.”