The Best and Worst of Super Bowl Ads

Let the record show that 2010 was the year of older women being viciously tackled in Super Bowl commercials. It’s about time: These old biddies have been getting away with far too much lately.

Of course until kickoff, 2010 was known as the Year of the Tim Tebow Pro-Life ad, in which the ex-Florida quarterback and his mom teamed to bring America a message funded by that conservative Christian fun bunch, Focus on the Family. The commercial was kept strictly under wraps until Sunday morning, when CBS released what turned out to be a rather timid, benign message which had Mrs. Tebow talking about her “miracle baby.”

But in the version that actually aired during the game, a strange thing happened. As Pam Tebow finished her little spiel, Tim suddenly flashed in from stage left and took her out with a rather aggressive tackle. Well, that’s gratitude for you.

Anyway, it would have been a pretty funny moment, had pretty much the same thing not occurred moments before. In the previous commercial, Betty White — 88 years old and one of the two surviving Golden Girls — is featured in a Snickers commercial, in which she is ruthlessly tackled during a game of pickup football. We then learn that it turns out to be a guy who is just playing like Betty White, until he gets a bite of Snickers.

It kind of took the steam out of the following Tebow ad “surprise,” turning a potentially humorous commercial into a “why does CBS hate older women?” moment. All in all, however, all the hand wringing over the Tebow spot turned out to be for nothing: It seemed to feel more like an FTD spot than something decrying abortion. Final verdict: $2.5 million not well spent.

But the same cannot be said for Coca-Cola, Doritos and Budweiser, who scored big with multiple ads, turning up the creativity meter after a couple of years of Super Bowl ad blandness. Doritos rolled out four spots and asked viewers to vote for their favorite, and Coke presented us with no less than The Simpsons (Mr. Burns loses all his money, and is cheered up by soft drink-wielding Springfield residents). Budweiser probably hit for the highest average of all, including the return of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Folks love their Clydesdales: Two ads featuring the lumbering horses finished second and third, respectively, in a USA Today Super Bowl reader survey last year.

Oh, and CBS reunited Leno and Letterman, with a dash of Oprah, in what will probably be the most talked-about moment of the commercials. Details below.

Here are all the ads in case you for some reason were watching the game and went to the bathroom during the commercials (I mean really, what’s up with that?).

In case you have a sudden desire to attend a movie tonight, it’s no wonder: CBS unfurled ads for upcoming releases "Shutter Island," "Robin Hood," "Prince of Persia," "The Backup Plan" and, most interestingly, "The Last Airbender;" the new M. Night Shyamalan film that actually looks like it might not suck.

Our favorite Super Bowl commercial? Glad you asked. We’ve created a top 5, followed of course by a bottom five, in descending order:

5. Budweiser, "Lost." How to make the show much less confusing and much more awesome.

4. Snickers, "Betty White." Any time you have Betty White getting demolished in game of pickup football, then talking smack, AND Abe Vigoda, that’s pure win right there.

3. Bridgestone, "Orca." I didn’t think anything could one-up the tiger in the hotel room in "The Hangover," but this does. Bridgestone Killer Whale > Free Willy.

2. CBS, "Dave, Oprah and Jay." Only Oprah could get Letterman and Leno to watch the Super Bowl on the same sofa. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the late-night hosts was inserted via CGI. (Editor's note: We thought so too, but it turns out it actually happened.)

1. Coke, "Simpsons." Mr. Burns loses all his money, but the people of Springfield cheer him up with a Coke and a smile. Noteworthy for: Cameo appearance by Spider-Pig, a TV news broadcaster who isn’t Kent Brockman, and only one regular cast member doing a character voice — Pamela Hayden as Milhouse. That saved some bucks, I'll reckon.

And here's our five worst:

5. U.S. Census, "Location." Ed Begley Jr. Um, the $2.5 million for this are taxpayer dollars, right? Not cool.

4. Bridgestone, "Wife." Wife or life? Is there a third choice? CBS really hates women today.

3. FloTV, "Spine." CBS realizes that women watch the Super Bowl too, right?

2. truTV, "Groundhog Day." This commercial will haunt your dreams. Horrifying, grade 'A' nightmare fuel.

1. Electronic Arts: Dante’s Inferno, "Sunshine." Awesome early version was rejected by CBS mainly due to tag line "Go To Hell." New version now says "Hell Awaits," and raucous soundtrack is replaced, inexplicably, with "Ain’t No Sunshine" by Bill Withers. Fail.

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