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Mon Feb 8, 2021, 10:08 AM

The Best (but Mostly the Worst) Super Bowl Commercials of 2021

(Slate) The year between this Super Bowl and the last one was one of the worst and weirdest in modern American history. There was a pandemic. (The pandemic is still happening.) The president had an impeachment trial. (Amazingly, this is also still happening.) A bunch of violent right-wing idiots stormed the U.S. Capitol. (This literally just happened.) John Prine died. (This will probably not happen again.) Approximately 4,700 other memorably terrible things happened, too, and going into Super Bowl LV, the question on my mind was how the brands of the world would respond to this awful year in the commercials theyíd paid millions to air during the big game.

They mostly didnít. Sure, a bunch of ads referred obliquely to the past year being a rough one, though most skipped over the particulars of why it was so rough. Others offered vague calls for national unity, even as they conveniently forgot to mention exactly what it was thatís divided us. Very few of these ads sat well, because you canít really have an effective unity or sympathy message without specificsóbut then again, if youíre buying a Super Bowl ad, you also donít want to say anything too specific, lest you offend one half or the other of this polarized nation.

So most ads took the safe path and chose not to mention this past year at all. Instead, they posited a world in which everything is fine and has always been fine. (No pandemics here, just lots of random celebrity cameos.) There was some weird stuff and some earnest stuff and some stuff that was actually pretty funny. But in a year in which most of us no longer know what to say, Americaís advertising geniuses largely proved no different. It was a rough year for Super Bowl commercials. I am almost positive that this will happen again.

First Quarter

The very first ad after kickoff was for a new M. Night Shyamalan movie, which is apparently about a spooky beach that makes you prematurely old, or something like that. The second ad after kickoff was for M&Mís, which always delivers clever, punchy Super Bowl spots that do their job of reminding you that M&Mís exist and that perhaps you should eat some. This yearís ends with Schittís Creek actor Dan Levy attempting to apologize to a bunch of anthropomorphic candy pieces for having consumed so many of their brethren. The twist is that Levy has yet another sentient M&M locked inside his car, trying desperately to escape before it, too, meets the same fate. The moral: Donít trust Schittís Creek actor Dan Levy. Anyway, I look forward to the M. Night Shyamalan adaptation of this spooky premise sometime in 2022. ...............(more)


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