Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
LIMITED TIME ONLY: Discounted Pint Glass/Tote Bag Combo at $10 sustaining member level.

Super Bowl's commercials are overshadowed by the big game and halftime show


A fourth-quarter touchdown with less than two minutes left on the clock clinched a Super Bowl win for the LA Rams over the Cincinnati Bengals. Sunday's big game also featured an epic hip-hop performance. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it was an odd situation where the game and the halftime show actually overshadowed a largely uninspiring collection of commercials.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: The Super Bowl's halftime performance, which featured powerhouse appearances from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, was a coming out party that was long overdue. Hip-hop's been at the center of pop culture for decades but hadn't fully occupied center stage at the Super Bowl halftime until this moment.

One commenter I saw on social media called it the Blackest Super Bowl halftime in history, and it certainly felt that way as the group performed hallowed hits like 50 Cent's "In Da Club," Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Mary J. Blige singing her heart out on signature cuts like "No More Drama." And despite rumors before the game that the NFL had asked him not to do it, Eminem did kneel during the halftime show, a tribute to former NFL star Colin Kaepernick and other players who've taken criticism for kneeling to protest police brutality. All of this added up to a powerful artistic statement that seemed much more impressive than the commercials which surrounded the game action.


JENNIFER COOLIDGE: If it was delivered with Uber Eats, does that mean I can eats it?

DEGGANS: That's from one of the odder commercials Sunday, featuring Jennifer Coolidge and other stars trying to eat pencils, paper towels and other nonedible stuff that Uber Eats has now also started to deliver.

A little more fun was BMW's ad featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Greek god Zeus, frustrated in his retirement by people always asking him to charge their golf carts.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Yo, Zeus, a little juice.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: (As Zeus) That's it. I'm done with this place.

SALMA HAYEK: (As Hera) We'll see about that.

DEGGANS: Salma Hayek, playing Zeus' wife Hera, gets him an electric BMW car to ease his blues.

Google's ad featured Black people who have often grappled with cameras and photography aligned to work better with white faces.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: People with darker complexions have always struggled with having good lighting.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Every single yearbook photo of mine has been terribly shot since I was a kid.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I always show up as too dark or shiny.

LIZZO: (Singing) 'Cause if you love me, you love all of me.

DEGGANS: As Lizzo sings an unreleased song, the ad suggests that the new Real Tone software on Google's Pixel 6 smartphones will better capture darker skin tones, offering concrete achievement on a persistent problem.

There were also a few ads that offered a little low-key shade. Salesforce presented a commercial narrated by Matthew McConaughey encouraging the audience to focus on the Earth's problems while taking a subtle swipe at folks like SpaceX's Elon Musk and Meta's Mark Zuckerberg.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: So while the others look to the metaverse and Mars, let's stay here and restore ours. Yeah, it's time to blaze our trail. Because the new frontier - it ain't rocket science. It's right here.

DEGGANS: But one of the more interesting ads featured a showbiz power couple, superstar actress Scarlett Johansson and her husband, "Saturday Night Live" star Colin Jost, for Amazon's Alexa. While displaying how Alexa might work if it could read their minds, the ad featured the digital assistant playing an interesting song while the couple was talking.


COLIN JOST: When you have to do those love scenes with hot guys, is that fun, or is that, like, the worst?



FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) Tell me lies. Tell me sweet, little lies.

DEGGANS: In the end, these were the ads which worked best in the Super Bowl's elevated showcase - personal and cheeky with a little bit of painful honesty.

I'm Eric Deggans.


Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.