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Volume 25 No. 152
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Super Bowl Thriller Boosts Fox' Overnight; Reviews Mixed

Fox' coverage of Super Bowl XXXVI yesterday earned a 42.5/61 overnight Nielsen rating, up 7% from CBS' 39.7/58 last year (THE DAILY). In Akron, Tom Reed writes the "television extravaganza that is Super Bowl Sunday worked better yesterday than it has in many years." Fox' telecast was "neither overdone nor overexposed." The event "stood up to its intimidating billing." Fox and the NFL "pulled it off without going over the top" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 2/4). In Boston, Monica Collins: "TV doesn't get any better." The telecast was "the most dramatic, the most entertaining, the most sentimental, the most exciting" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/4). In Dallas, Barry Horn: "It was a strong nuts-and-bolts presentation from a network that usually hauls out the bells and whistles. There was no gaudy virtual advertising that has become a World Series staple, no glowing footballs, and the cameras stayed focused on the game rather than searching out silly quasi-celebrities in the stands." Fox' John Madden and Pat Summerall were "understatedly superb in their swan song" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/4).

PREGAME: In N.Y., Caryn James writes yesterday's pregame and halftime shows were, "as they were meant to be, jarringly different from most" Super Bowls. But entertainers "seemed to echo too many other tributes" other than the "Heroes, Hope and Homeland" theme of this year's game. Also, the "more serious [the pregame "Tribute to America"] became, the more it seemed as if the usually raucous Fox network had been uncomfortably transformed into the History Channel" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/4). Also, in N.Y., Richard Sandomir: "Like any network with three, four, five or six hours to fill before a Super Bowl, Fox struggled at times to fill 180 minutes and make it cohesive. The standout features were too short" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/4). In Boston, Bill Griffith writes, "After a week of hype, the 3 1/2-hour pregame show had a distinct lack of hijinks of the usual 'Fox NFL Sunday' crew" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/4).

NFL's “Moving And Patriotic”
Pregame Salute
In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes the NFL produced a "moving and patriotic salute to the American dream" with the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/4). But in Minneapolis, Brian Wicker writes, "Sure, we're proud of all this country stands for, but former football stars reading the Declaration of Independence? At least we didn't have former Beatles singing pregame songs of freedom. Oh, wait a minute" (STAR TRIBUNE, 2/4). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes Fox' "'postcards' from American soldiers were a nice addition to the pre-game show, mainly because they were done with a sense of humour" (TORONTO STAR, 2/4). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay writes most of the revisions Fox made to its pregame show "worked beautifully, particularly the stirring performance by the Boston Pops and the narration of Aaron Copeland's 'Lincoln Portrait' by former presidents and Nancy Reagan" (NEWSDAY, 2/4). In New Orleans, Pierce Huff writes Fox "struck the right chords of patriotism and passion" with its pregame show (TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/4). The N.Y. POST's Phil Mushnick writes Fox "juggled two radically different themes" with its pregame show: "lots of noise" and "sober, circumspect, charitable and patriotic." It was "as if Fox had only two buttons, 'high road' and 'low road,' and it pushed both for all they were worth" (N.Y. POST, 2/4). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley: "What an odd blend in Fox' pre-game show. ... Tributes to the military and huckstering from sponsors. Bare Naked Ladies and Don Rumsfeld. Bourbon Street and NASA satellite shots of Earth. Someone saying, Live, from Afghanistan.' Very weird" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/4). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes the pregame show was "full of good things but [was] also tasteful and meaningful" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/4). In Denver, Bernie Lincicome writes the pregame show was "touching more than overdone" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/4).

SOME SAY OVER-THE-TOP: The N.Y. POST's Mushnick writes Fox' telecast was "hurt by needless production values. ... Our attention was continually diverted by tone-cues heralding bottom of the screen inserts that invited fools to answer foolish questions, via Fox' Website" (N.Y. POST, 2/4). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes Fox "insists on cluttering its big-event telecasts with graphics trying to lure viewers to vote in polls on the Internet." But "maybe worst of all, there was a promo for Fox's NASCAR coverage with four minutes left in one of the most compelling Super Bowl finishes" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/4). In Orlando, Scott Andera writes that at 10:48pm ET yesterday, "We've officially hit filler time. Jeff Gordon and Fox announcer Darrell Waltrip join the desk and begin talking NASCAR, which, of course, starts on Fox in a few weeks. This is just shameless corporate shilling" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/4). In Nashville, Paul Kuharsky writes that after the halftime show, Fox' Terry Bradshaw "[made] a fool of himself as per usual, by a) insisting on singing with [Paul] McCartney and b) completely botching the lyrics to 'A Hard Day's Night'" (TENNESSEAN, 2/4). In Akron, Patrick McManamon: "The question can be asked ... whether this effort to wrap the game and the event in the flag trivialized the sadness [of September 11]" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 2/4).

9/11 Memorial During U2
Performance Applauded

U2 AT THE HALF: In N.Y., Adam Buckman writes, "If there was ever a more moving spectacle during a Super Bowl telecast, I don't remember it. But I'll likely remember Bono bounding around the oval stage at Super Bowl XXXVI for years to come" (N.Y,. POST, 2/4). In N.Y., David Bianculli writes that U2 "managed to strike the right mood of patriotism, pride and solemnity." Bianculli notes NBC counter-programming against Fox' halftime show with an episode of "Fear Factor" featuring Playboy Playmates and calls it "a wall-to-wall, coast-to-coast embarrassment. ... Shame on NBC" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/4). In Chicago, Jay Mariotti writes that during U2's performance, when a large scroll of the names of the victims in the September 11 attacks was elevated behind the band, "I've never seen so many hard-bitten sportswriters dabbing their eyes. Every way, it was Patriots Day. In sport and in life, America never looked better" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/4). In DC, Tom Shales: "To some, it may have seemed rather a garish memorial, but in a strangely affecting way, it worked, and respectfully. E-Trade, which sponsored the halftime show, kept its round logo in the bottom left corner of the screen during most of it, but not while the scroll of names rolled upward" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/4). While most of the musical acts prerecorded their songs, U2 played live (AP, 2/4). In S.F., Tim Goodman wonders, "Has the halftime show ever been good? ... Not in our lifetime." But U2's performance was "both daringly bombastic and also pretty damn cool." Fox had "very few letdowns on its hands. ... All told, this was one Super Sunday that delivered on all fronts — from entertainment to actual game — and that, period, is the biggest upset of any Super Bowl" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/4). In Calgary, Mike Bell writes the choice of U2 "seemed an odd one considering the USA tone set by the pre-game show but it proved to be a wise one." U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" produced "one of the most honest and affecting moments you'll see on TV" (CALGARY SUN, 2/4). In Orlando, Hal Boedeker: "U2 made it a beautiful night Sunday in a thrilling Super Bowl halftime show." But Fox' telecast "wrapped itself too tightly in the flag" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/4). But in St. Pete., Eric Deggans calls U2's halftime performance "out-of-place. ... For once, [the game] outshone the flat, contrived TV extravaganza that surrounded it" (ST. PETE TIMES, 2/4). But in Chicago, Jim Derogatis writes, "U2 was the biggest disappointment. ... A truly great rock band would have taken this moment of unprecedented exposure to offer a thoughtful comment on recent events. But the usually verbose Bono didn't even bother with his traditional plea for world peace, choosing to simply flash the stars-and-stripes lining of his Super Bowl Jacket instead" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/4).