This Spot-Check Just for Laughs

This year's Super Bowl commercials were better than the game, but maybe that's not saying much. Hey, what happened to all those hip dotcom ads, you know, the ones where Company A put every cent it had into a 30-second Super Bowl spot, leaving no money to actually run the company?

(No need to answer; it's a rhetorical question.)

A quick rundown of Sunday's best and worst ads:

Thumbs Up

Budweiser -- Spot opens with someone replaying, over and over, film of horses running. But that's no someone; it's a real zebra with head tucked under the hood of an NFL instant replay monitor. "This referee's a real jackass," one guy says. "No," the other says, "I believe that's a zebra."

Terrific product placement: Moments later, in the game, the real Super Bowl refs botched their first instant replay call!

FedEx -- This spot works only if you saw the movie "Cast Away" which fortunately I did. After five years spent on a deserted island, a rescued

FedEx employee returns an unopened box to its customer. The box includes everything a castaway would need to hasten his survival and rescue -- including a satellite phone.

Funny bit, wouldn't you say, Wilson?

Cadillac -- It starts off weird. Guy gets on a subway and stares out the window at a picture of a Cadillac and then, as the train moves faster and faster past the same picture, the car starts to move and sweeps the man off on a grand fast-action adventure. Maybe the best action-scene sequence I've seen since Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 "Battleship Potemkin."

ESPN -- "Without Sports, There'd Be No Next Year." Die-hard fans make cases for their long-suffering franchises -- Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears, Boston Red Sox, et al., with one man saying, "You just hope the minor leaguers come through."

Best thing about the ad? Snippet from a long-suffering Angel fan no longer required.

Sierra Mist -- It's a hot day -- really hot -- and this man's dog appears ready to relieve himself on a fire hydrant. Lo and behold, the little pooch kicks off the hydrant cap, the water blast knocking the dog's owner off his feet.

"I've got to get me a dog like that," an onlooker says.

Definitely a case of ad bites man: "Shockingly refreshing."

Sierra Mist also scored with spot where zoo baboons devise a way to catapult themselves into the polar bear's water.

Diet Pepsi -- It's every teenager's worst nightmare as a kid caked in mud at a rock concert turns to find his dad also attending this headbanger's ball.

AT&T; -- "Antique Bandwagon." Nice spoof on "Antiques Roadshow," the unexplainably interesting public television show about old people who get expert appraisals for junk they've had stashed in their attic for years.

Reebok -- Terry Tate, office linebacker. Steroid-addled Terry shapes up a sloppy workplace with a series of bone-jarring tackles. I'm still not sure what any of this had to do with shoes.

Thumbs Down

Levi's -- A herd of buffalo on a rampage, an empty town, and two lovers walking alone in matching jean outfits. The buffalo suddenly turn the corner and appear set to crush our heroes but, alas, the power of Levi's somehow diverts the herd.

Just one question: What gives?

Diet Pepsi -- Amazing. They run several make-you-think anti-drug spots during the course of the Super Bowl, and Ozzy Osbourne is featured in an ad for diet soda?

After his latest run-in with Donny and Marie Osmond, our man Ozzy may be seeking a saccharine rehab center.

Bud Light -- Guy in clown suit walks into a bar walking upside down and orders a beer. Well, he isn't really upside down, is he?

Bottoms up? Well, that's the gist of it. As for the potty humor aspect, credit Bud for nailing that 18-to-24 demographic.

AT&T; -- What do you mean FedEx already did the castaway bit in an earlier Super Bowl ad?

Yep. AT&T; went the "Gilligan's Island" route, promoting its wireless service as a way Bob Denver and cast could have been rescued from their island.

Of course, offing Gilligan in the first episode also would have worked.

Dodge -- There's nothing funny about a guy choking, the exception being that old "Saturday Night Live" episode in which John Belushi had some parody fun with Liz Taylor.

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