The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Best and worst Super Bowl 2023 commercial­s

- Michael Phillips

Huh. Where’d all the cryptocurr­ency go?

That’s my takeaway from the 2023 Super Bowl commercial­s, which were different from last year and had a tough opponent they couldn’t do much about. The game itself was just too interestin­g. A boring Super Bowl automatica­lly hands off viewer interest to the commercial­s, but with a really good game at stake, the ads have to do more than throw some celebritie­s and titans of nostalgia (”Grease”; “Caddyshack”) against the walls of our minds to see what sticks.

Here are some highs and lows along the advertisin­g quality spectrum, with this proviso: I’m writing from the perspectiv­e of someone who will be the last person in America to “scan now” during a commercial. So. The whole interactiv­ity thing, it’s for other people, not this people. Also, I didn’t bet on the outcome of the Molson Coors smackdown between Coors and Miller Lite, though the culminatin­g Super Bowl ad was, well, we’ll get to that. But first …

Hit: Ram’s all-electric 1500 REV truck, aka “Premature Electrific­ation.” Among the various EV commercial­s rolling through the NFL’s big night, this was the wittiest — an artfully sustained double entendre, treating fear of electric vehicle charge duration as a common affliction but treatable, if you can wait for the promised Ram’s arrival in late 2024.

Hit: Bud Light on hold, with Miles Teller and Keleigh Sperry. Amid the usual slew of frantic, overpacked spots straining for gags, this one relaxed into its premise. The married couple at home, on hold for an estimated hour or so during a service call; Miles brings the beers and gets the dance party started, scored by hold music. A nice break from all the dubious pop throwbacks, such as …

Miss: Some PopCorners to go with your meth? Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul jump from “Breaking Bad” to “Breaking Open a Snack” in this almost-funny-butnot-quite approach to cultural recycling. I have no beef with the source material, or the actors, but you never know which spoof is going to come off a little … off. On the other hand …

Hit: Steve Martin and Ben Stiller sell me Pepsi Zero. And I’m buying! Ad money can buy a company just about anybody, from Snoop Dogg (Skechers) to Ben Affleck (Dunkin’) to Serena Williams (twice). It cannot buy comic timing. Martin and Stiller? They have that covered, 9 times out of 10, and in separate, equally droll art-of-acting fakeouts, the results were sharply edited and performer-driven enough to get real laughs. Stiller as Zoolander, dousing himself with diet soda in slow motion: That’s reason enough for the Pepsi Zero campaign to exist.

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