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Bowled Over, Then Kicked in the Groin

American citizens gathered around their televisions last night for our annual orgy of state-sanctioned violence. I'm not talking about the Super Bowl but the Super Bowl ads.

As I watched them, I was reminded of the oath gladiators used to swear before joining that "profession": “I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.”

Actors in Super Bowl commercials take a similar oath, but it includes "to be electrocuted, thrown from a window, hit by a bus and struck in the groin." Probably the best emblem of this year's crop was the image of a koala bear being punched.

Not that I have a problem with that. I like slapstick, and for it to work, someone has to be slapped. And most of the ads ended with the injured character popping up like someone from a Warner Bros. cartoon: I'm good! Still, it'd be nice if Madison Avenue could come up with funny ads that didn't depend on a punch line that was a literal punch. (You can see all the ads by clicking below or here.)

What goes hand-in-hand with violence? Why, sex, of course! But even here the ads disappointed. Web domain name company smarmed it up with spots featuring their spokesperson Danica Patrick. One ad had big-busted women grilled by legislators on whether they'd "enhanced" (nudge, nudge); the other had Patrick in the shower, controlled by sweaty-palmed teens.

Both ads promised "hot," unedited Internet versions for viewers who clicked to the GoDaddy Web site, which, as a public service, I did. As bad as the 30-second spots were, the longer ads are excruciating. Anyone who worked on them -- from the writer and director to the key grip and catering staff -- should be banned from the industry and forced to address high school assemblies.

I didn't quite know what to make of the Bridgestone ad starring the Potato Heads. A kvetching Mrs. Potato Head loses her mouth when Mr. Potato Head slams on the brakes. Ha ha. But if Mrs. Potato Head can switch out her eyes -- which she does, changing her regular pair for some angry, scowling ones --wouldn't she also keep a spare mouth in her purse? Or am I not supposed to expect that television ads featuring CGI versions of classic children's toys should hew to some internal logic?

Other thoughts on the evening: Most exciting Super Bowl I've seen. (Since we were living in England, I missed last year's, neglecting to stay up into the wee hours to watch it.) And I thought Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a fine half-time performance. "He's pretty flexible and jumpy for an old guy," said my 15-year-old daughter.

What did you think of this year's crop of Super Bowl ads?

Where in Washington?
Last week's image was of National Airport, as Arlington's Eric Jowett correctly guessed. (Mike Neumann of Alexandria won the previous week, correctly identifying the old Dupont Plaza Hotel.)

This week's postcard comes to us from deltiologist (that's postcard collector) Jerry McCoy, president of the Silver Spring Historical Society. Recognize this striking area structure? (Hint, it's not Hoover Dam and it's not in Silver Spring.)


Send your guess to me at The author of the first correct entry I receive gets a postcard of his or her own, signed by a Post Pulitzer winner.

By John Kelly  |  February 2, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
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At age 73, I watched my first Super Bowl yesterday....and muted all the ads. Game was good - glad that mean guy got a 15-yd penalty!

Posted by: OldLady1 | February 2, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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