SBD/February 6, 2012/Media

NBC's Analysts, Hosts Praised For Pregame Performance As Net Receives High Marks

Costas and crew are lauded for their work during the four hour-plus pregame show
There were moments yesterday when NBC's Super Bowl pregame show "felt as if it were headed into a quality abyss," but NBC’s "missteps were balanced by a pacing that never let football stray too far from the viewers’ attention," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. NBC kept "shuttling back" to studio analysts Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy; "hired guns for the day" Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Steelers WR Hines Ward; and to hosts Bob Costas and Dan Patrick. Harrison was at his "best, bringing emotion to the broadcast, especially his lingering disappointment" that the Patriots, his former team, lost to the Giants four years ago in Super Bowl XLII. Each time Harrison appeared onscreen, he "demonstrated an electric personality that contrasts nicely with Dungy’s calm, even priestly demeanor." There were "times in the five hours when I felt as if NBC’s Olympic unit had taken over the pregame show" with a "bunch of heart-tugging features." Of most significance was Peter King’s feature "about Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saint, who has ALS" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes NBC's pregame "largely followed the usual format and was pretty good." Rodgers was "understandably diplomatic -- he's an active player -- but at least took a shot at the Giants." Hiestand notes, "Inevitably, there was hype for all things NBC." Some of the football features, like the "one about ex-New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason ... and the unusual life stories of Giants Mathias Kiwanuka and Zoltan Mesko, had the up-close-and-personal polish of NBC's Olympics coverage" (USA TODAY, 2/6). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes aside from the features, the best part of the pregame was when NBC "took viewers onto the field or inside the stadium, from studio host Dan Patrick and analyst Rodney Harrison speaking in front of Tom Brady's locker to Patrick, studio analyst Tony Dungy and Harrison in the end zone an hour before kickoff." The pacing of the pregame was "much better than last year's pregame on Fox, but the five-hour show still delivered too much cross-promotional nonsense and too frequent cuts to celebrity interviews." Deitsch: "The lowest of the low was NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon dressing up in drag for a skit called 'the Real Housewives of Indianapolis,' arguably the worst pregame segment in NFL history" (SI.com, 2/6).

Writers call Harrison "star" of pregame show,
praising his analysis and candor

HARRISON THE STAR OF THE SHOW: In San Diego, Jay Posner writes Harrison was the "star" of the pregame show, as he"offered good analysis throughout." He "clearly was emotional when forced to relive the worst moment of his playing career," when former Giants WR David Tyree made a miraculous catch against him in Super Bowl XLII (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/6). In Tampa Bay, Tom Jones writes everyone on NBC's pregame coverage "brought his A game," but the "star was Rodney Harrison." The former All Pro was "great," and his "finest moment was talking about how devastated he was (and is) about losing the Super Bowl to the Giants while with the Patriots in 2008." Harrison made his comments while sitting next to Tyree, and Jones writes it was the "best segment in any of the pregame shows" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/6). The AP's Jake Coyle writes Harrison "stood out," and is an "odd combination of candid and cocky that improves on often too-soft studio vibe" (AP, 2/6).

RODGERS MAKES PEOPLE TAKE NOTICE: The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones writes, "Wow, was Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers good on NBC's Super Bowl pregame show." His performance "guaranteed that if he wants, he can be a broadcaster in his post-playing days." What is "stunning is how much faith NBC put in him." Even though Rodgers has "never been a broadcaster, NBC's plan all along was to give him significant air time." He was "smooth, calm and insightful, and he sounded like a broadcasting veteran." It "was surprising how good he was" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/6). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Rodgers "offered up insightful information, was very personable and didn't try to upstage anyone." Twitter reviews of his performance "came from all over the place, including James Andrew Miller, author of the recent ESPN oral history book who tweeted: 'How much money will ESPN try to throw Aaron Rodgers way one day to have him as an analyst -- and keep him off NBC, CBS and Fox? A lot'" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/6). In California, John Maffei writes Rodgers was a "show stealer." From start to finish, his analysis "was outstanding" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 2/6). SI's Peter King writes Rodgers "was splendid" during the pregame show, as he was "not afraid to be a little irrevelent" (SI.com, 2/6). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes both Rodgers and Ward "had presence, were well-spoken, seemed relaxed and had some fun." Rodgers "provided some engaging insights" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/6).

PLENTY OF SELF-PROMOTION: In Miami, Barry Jackson writes all networks use their Super Bowl pregame shows to promote their primetime lineups, but NBC "took that to particularly blatant extremes, to the point of absurdity at times." Stars of a dozen NBC programs "belted out a 'brotherhood' song that served no purpose other than to waste everyone’s time." NBC "aired highlights of a Boston-Washington NHL game ... simply because the network owns NHL rights." Jackson: "What about the TV series stars who were interviewed by Nick Cannon in NBC’s 'celebrity suite'? Well, what do you know? -- all four appear in NBC series" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/6). The AP's Coyle writes while NBC "kept the festivities closer to the game than some, it still offered the cringe-inducing 'Super Suite' red carpet show." Cannon "awkwardly and superficially interviewed celebrities such as Adam Sandler and Katharine McPhee, the star of 'Smash.'" Few of NBC’s stars "didn’t make cameos of some kind, from Brian Williams to '30 Rock' sketches" (AP, 2/6). In San Diego, Jay Posner writes if someone would have "misplaced Nick Cannon's credential, it would have been a pretty good show." There was "much less insanity than in previous years on CBS and Fox" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/6).

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OTHER NETS: In Houston, David Barron writes NFL Network "did a good job with a show that was light on taped features and heavy on wall-to-wall chatter." NFL Network "pulled off the chatfest relatively well, but eight hours is just too much for any pregame show." It is a "punishing experience to watch eight hours of pregame TV" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/6). The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones writes ESPN and the NFL Network "had impressive days as well." It is "impressive the NFL Network was able to produce 8 1/2 hours of pregame coverage and never have the coverage get stale." Same goes "for ESPN and its four hours." ESPN's coverage was "highlighted by Bill Parcells, Mike Ditka and Jon Gruden, Super Bowl-winning coaches who turned their experiences into first-rate analysis." Any time any of them "was on camera, ESPN's broadcast soared." But Jones writes it was "hard to listen to ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi on Sunday and take anything he said seriously knowing that two weeks ago, in the AFC Championship Game, the former Patriots linebacker was sitting in the box of Patriots owner Robert Kraft" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/6).
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