As the Super Bowl approaches, your Sunday night plans are probably firming up. And, if you're like millions of other casual sports fans, these plans probably involve sitting in front of a TV. Although the overwhelming majority of the nation's television audience will be tuned to NBC for the Steelers-Cardinals tilt, the other networks have to come up with some sort of programming to fill the four or so hours of the game. Some channels take an aggressive stance to try to appeal to the football-oblivious parts of the audience, while others pretty much concede the ratings war to NBC for a night. Let's take a look at how various networks are trying to lure viewers away from the magnificence of Kurt Warner's graying crewcut.
ABC: Reruns of America's Funniest Home Videos and Wipeout
Airing reruns against the Super Bowl is pretty routine, but if ABC really wanted to steal viewers from NBC, they'd bring back Bob Saget. Really, what would you rather watch: Bob Saget narrating videos in his little kid voice or Troy Polamalu flying around in the secondary? Okay, fine, still football, but didn't that make it a tiny bit closer?
Animal Planet: Puppy Bowl V
We wrote about the Puppy Bowl last year, but another year hasn't diminished the simple brilliance of the idea of filming adorable puppies on a miniature football field. Animal Planet doesn't scrimp on the pomp and circumstance for its big game, either. This year's bowl will feature the National Anthem sung by Pepper the Parrot and the Kitty Halftime Show, which will undoubtedly be at least 40% better than Tom Petty was at the actual game's halftime show last year. Plus, each pet in the "game" is a shelter animal that's up for adoption, so it's hard to find fault with cuteness of it all.
MTV: Teen Cribs
Just in case stuffing your face with nachos, watching ludicrously expensive commercials for consumer goods, and seeing an extravagant multi-million dollar halftime show didn't make you feel just a little bit uncomfortable about our collective priorities in these tough economic times, it's MTV to the rescue with a show "profiling ordinary teens who live in extraordinary homes!"
Fox: Rerun of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?
Finally, definitive proof that Jeff Foxworthy is the cultural equivalent of waving a white flag.
ESPN2: Australian Open Singles Finals
The Australian Open is the forgotten Grand Slam in the United States, perhaps because of the time zone differences, perhaps because it's the year's first Slam, or perhaps because Americans think the only "real" hard court Slam is the U.S. Open. This general apathy towards one of the tennis season's gems probably won't change this year when the finals air opposite the Super Bowl. As of this writing, though, top-seeded Rafael Nadal, second seed Roger Federer, and American Andy Roddick are all still alive in the men's singles draw, so the finals match could well be worth a peak.
AMC: Death Wish
If this selection is a joke, it may be one of the most subtle and inspired pieces of comedy to ever grace TV Guide's pages. AMC has decided to counterprogram the Super Bowl with Death Wish. Imagine a Venn diagram showing the people who like Charles Bronson's 1974 vigilante classic and the people who enjoy NFL football. Is there even a remote possibility that the Death Wish circle isn't entirely enveloped by the NFL circle? Is there a single person in the world who would say, "Football? Too violent for me. Ooooooh"¦.Death Wish is on!" Perhaps AMC is banking on die-hard Death Wish fans with Nielsen boxes flipping over to see Jeff Goldblum's film debut as a drug-addled rapist and murderer, or maybe AMC knows that the allure of Charles Bronson shooting muggers is too strong for even some Steelers fans to resist. Either way, my hat is off to you for this gutsy, quite possibly crazy gambit, AMC Director of Programming.
The CW: Throw Momma From the Train
The CW's strategy for spiking its ratings focuses on an oft-neglected demographic: overweight guys who used to be more popular. The network is counterprogramming the first hour of the Super Bowl with reruns of The Drew Carey Show, and the second half of the game will air opposite Danny Devito's 1987 reworking of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. It seems suspect to think that Danny Devito directing himself, Billy Crystal and Anne Ramsey (of The Goonies fame) could be more compelling than a) Hitchcock's original, which featured a sublimely creepy performance by Robert Walker and a visually stunning climax or b) the Super Bowl. Maybe viewers will tune in for Oprah's cameo.
TV Guide describes this show as outtakes from the popular series To Catch a Predator. I've never watched To Catch a Predator, but I think I understand gist of it well enough to put it near the top of my list of "Shows That Probably Don't Have Hilarious Blooper Reels."
Discovery: Jesus: The Complete Story
The Discovery Channel looks for help from above with this documentary chronicling the life of Jesus. If the Cardinals manage to win the game, it might be interesting to go back and see which mentions Jesus more: this three-hour documentary or Kurt Warner's victory speech.
The Biography Channel: The Manson Women: An American Nightmare &
Charles Manson: Journey into Evil
Until I checked the listings I wasn't aware that there was any connection between not liking football and being fascinated with horrific crimes. The Biography Channel cleared that up for me, though, by offering two straight hours of Manson Family info followed up with two more hours of programming about homicidal mothers, including Mothers Who Kill. The moral of this bullet point: if you know someone who's planning on not watching the Super Bowl, you should probably report them to the police. Right now. It's just your civic duty.