TV

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of The 2021 Super Bowl Commercials

A few notes before we begin our discussion about the 2021 Super Bowl commercials

  • As in previous years, we will utilize a “good/bad/ugly” format to break them down, with a focus on the more notable spots as opposed to a discussion of every single one of them
  • We will be grading on a curve here, mostly because even the “good” Super Bowl commercials are usually a little corny in a “they’re trying to reach everyone from Generation Z to your great aunt Bernice and something gets lost in translation” kind of way, but also because you never want to be the “everything sucks, I hate it” guy if you don’t have to
  • Whatever, it’s my list, leave me alone and make your own list if you’re so great

Here we go.

THE GOOD

Dan Levy murders a candy

I do not know or particularly want to investigate what it says about me on a deeply personal level that I love when the M&M commercials get dark like this. It was always weird to me that we turned a food into an adorable little guy with feeling and a personality. I like that they address the implications of that decision head-on. It’s disturbing but I love it. Take it further, I say. Show me television’s Dan Levy biting it one as it screams. Don’t shy away now, M&Ms. You started this.

Space things

Big year for space. My favorite of the two was the Inspiration4 ad, not so much for the content of it as because it is funny to picture hopping in a time machine and jetting back to like 1972 and explaining “so, in 2021, in the middle of a pandemic that’s been raging for a year, there will be a Super Bowl commercial for an all-civilian trip to space.” Really think about how you’d paint that picture. It’s fun.

Also fun? Pretend that commercial and this one…

… are connected and we just leave a spaceship full of regular-ass people floating around the cosmos because we got distracted by potato chips.

The singing Oatly man

What I like about this commercial, which was very divisive for many but a total delight for me, is that it implies one of two things:

  • The CEO of Oatly is a prankster and thought, correctly, that it would be really funny to waste millions in advertising dollar to get an awful song stuck in America’s head
  • The CEO of Oatly pitched this commercial earnestly and no one he works with had the heart/authority to stop him and it all kind of spiraled out of control until we got here

Either way: perfect.

The Cheetos “good for Shaggy for still cashing checks’ one

I pulled a 180 on this one between when it was released last week and when it aired during the game. My first reaction was “Who in the world — specifically, like I want names — asked for any of this?” But then I watched it again between the in-game action and suddenly I was half-charmed. Good for Shaggy, still cashing his “It Wasn’t Me” checks. Man probably put an addition on his house with this payday. We should all be so lucky.

I don’t know why but I will hear this from Lenny Kravitz only

This commercial should have been mystical garbage. If you just read a transcription of the voiceover, or had almost any other celebrity deliver it, you would have rolled your eyes so hard that the momentum kept them spinning in their sockets like little slot machines. Somehow, though, it worked with Lenny Kravitz. I, like, believed him about us all being billionaires. I would believe him about anything, I think. I would probably buy a boat from him if he told me buying a boat would “free up my energy,” whatever that means. I don’t even like the water. I’m sure it’s fine.

[fans self furiously]

The nice thing about this Sultry Alexa ad is that it allows me to tell my favorite story again. When I saw Black Panther in the theater, in a packed house, during the scene where Killmonger fights T’Challa and Michael B. Jordan takes off his shirt, a woman a few rows in front of me unleashed an “oh my God” that was so low and guttural that it kind of sounded like it escaped her body without her permission. It was great. I miss seeing movies in theaters.

Screw you, Norway

Fine. Good. A solid use of everyone’s time and effort. Moving along.

I’m including the Doritos one only because of the thing where Marshawn Lynch says “beast up on them boys, Archie”

“Beast up on them boys, Archie.”

This sentence lives inside my head now. I suspect it will stay there forever. Like, I could be on my deathbed hopefully many decades from now and out of nowhere I might mutter it. It could very well end up being the last words I ever speak. I’m weirdly okay with that.

THE BAD

This was cute, I guess, but it shoulda been Muppets

It is much more fun to picture this commercial with some collection of Chaos Muppets — Gonzo, Animal, Swedish Chef, etc. — just wreaking havoc in the background while Daveed Diggs attempts to sing. To be fair, you could say the same thing about every commercial on this list. Put the Muppets in a Super Bowl commercial next year. Put them in all the commercials. Let Statler and Waldorf call the game. Let Kermit sing the National Anthem. Let Dr. Teeth do the halftime show. I need to stress here that I am not joking.

Dolly no

This commercial placed me in a tricky spot. On one hand, it is my position that Dolly Parton is a top-five living American and top 10-15 all-time. It physically pains me to criticize her. On the other hand, taking a song about the Working Man and using it to promote starting a side hustle in your non-work hours — hence, 5 to 9 instead of 9 to 5 — feels… gross. You are now working 9 to 9 because your full-time job doesn’t pay your bills adequately. I hate it. Work stinks. We should not be promoting doing more of it. Ugh. Let’s never talk about this again.

Why are all our celebrities flat now?

This was the weirdest trend of the night. McConaughey and Jason Alexander just flat as can be, for various reasons and various products. I did not like it. Especially the Jason Alexander one. Shirts should not react to the things that happen to them. It’s weird. Less of this.

Do not encourage Boston, please

Another tough spot for me, personally. I very much support both anarchy and wild animals running amok in a large metropolitan area, so some goof releasing the Budweiser Clydesdales and watching them turn into Demon Stallions that are hellbent on destruction should be right up my alley. But, I’m sorry, I am sad to report I cannot support it. There are simply too many Boston things these days. We need fewer Boston things. I will revisit this stance for a Ben Affleck Dunkin commercial, though. An earnest one, dead serious, with him looking straight into the camera, where he just says how much he likes their iced coffee. But that’s it.

Come on, Robinhood

I’m sure this ad was in production long before GameStop and Reddit heaved its entire business into a tornado, but I still wish Robinhood had acknowledged the whole thing in some way. Maybe a tendies-based partnership with Popeyes. Maybe they reveal that the Popeyes Lady made $5 million hosing short sellers in a series of furious day trades. Like, we cut to a dark basement and she’s down there hunched over a glowing screen and clicking 100 times per minute and cackling like a supervillain as she sends, like, Circuit City’s stock through the roof. I’m just spitballing here. Could work.

I do not think I needed a Mayo Fairy

This all seems extremely on the nose in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Pass.

THE UGLY

This was depressing on a deeply existential level

This year, in 2021, almost 30 years after Wayne’s World came out, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey (and Cardi B, for some reason) got together to spoof the scene from the movie where they spoof selling out, but for a real and actual Super Bowl commercial. Think about that. Or maybe don’t. It is really all quite depressing once you look closely at a single layer of it, let alone all the layers. Why would they do this to me, personally? Someone should have stopped them. Where is Tia Carrere when you need her?

No

Hmm. Gross.

I cannot in good faith support the Bud Light Extended Universe

I do not like the idea of spokespeople of yore banding together in the present. It’s bad enough that almost every commercial during the game pulled the nostalgia strings for actual artistic projects you once enjoyed, now they’re during it for commercials, too. No. No thank you. Do not do this again please, unless it’s for Budweiser proper and you bring back the frogs. Those guys were okay.

And while I’m at it…

… if I understand this commercial correctly, there was a fictional universe where lemons rained from the heavens and caused bodily harm and property damage all over the world, and Bud Light responded by using the lemons to flavor a beverage. Isn’t that, like, the last thing you’d want after your brother died in a blizzard of falling citrus? I get that it was all in service of a silly little “when life gives you lemons” joke, but if someone offered me a lemon-flavored beverage a week after, like, my brother died in a blizzard of falling citrus, I think I would consider it in poor taste at the very least.

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