Well, it's time once again for the most talked about event on television that doesn't involve performance-enhancing drugs or fake girlfriends – the Super Bowl. And the networks will let the game begin this week…right after everything from the best Super Bowl commercials to the Puppy Bowl to the end of 30 Rock.
Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials, CBS, Wednesday, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
Now sure, there's this whole football game thing coming up. But let's be honest. The Super Bowl is really just the filler in between what people really want to see – the commercials. Whether it's toddler Darth Vaders or flying babies or tortilla chip loving dogs, the characters from these ads are often more memorable than any players from the games. Consider this special the all-star game of Super Bowl commercials, a collection of the best spots going all the way back to shirt-sharing Mean Joe Greene. The thing that I'm most curious about, though? How did they decide what real commercials to put in a show about commercials?
Necessary Roughness, USA, Wednesdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
For those who have yet to catch up with this series, this is certainly the time to give it a try. Now in its third season, Necessary Roughness revolves around a therapist (Callie Thorne) whose clientele (and, apparently, romantic interests) are primarily the players and staff of a pro football team. While most of the plots are basic soapy staples – women falling for the wrong men, kids falling in with the wrong crowd, etc. – Thorne always manages to come across as more like your best friend than an actress playing a part. Her character appeals to women. The football backdrop appeals to men. So, an episode of Necessary Roughness is the one time this week husbands and wives will be able to totally agree on what to watch.
The Americans, FX, Wednesdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
Whatever happened to the Communists? Seriously, when I was growing up, they were like Jason, Freddy Krueger and that Chucky doll all rolled into one. Nothing represented more imminent danger to our lives. And then….those bad guys were replaced by a whole new crew of villains. That's what makes The Americans downright nostalgic. This new show takes place in the early '80s, when the Cold War was still burning and a pair of Russian spies (Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys) posed as a wholesome American couple while working to bring down the U.S. government. The Americans is a bit tough to adjust to, since it is making these very bad guys our heroes, but the show deserves points for the audaciousness of the concept and the intensity of its action. It isn't perfect but more often than not, but The Americans hits its…..wait for it, wait for it….Marx.
The Taste, ABC, Tuesdays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
How often have you watched The Voice and wondered, "If only the singers were cooking instead of singing, this show would be so much better…." Well, wonder no more because The Taste is serving up that precise concept. Regular people (as well as a few pros) must sell themselves to a panel of four celebrity chefs, including Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson, via a blind taste of their favorite dish. The chefs then pick teams from the competitors, and mentor them through a series of cooking challenges. This is a tough series to swallow. At least with The Voice, you can judge the contestants' singing while in your own at home. Still, the idea of blending two familiar TV formulas – music and food competitions – lends a unique flavor to primetime.
30 Rock, NBC, Thursday, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
And they said it wouldn't last….well, seven years later, they're finally right. One of the most innovative comedies of the past decade is finally airing its last episode this week. 30 Rock has always been this oddity…a sit-com that spent most of its time tearing apart every possible sitcom convention. It could be smug. It could be precious. It could be weird. But most of all, it could be extremely surreal and funny. The show could have played like a Saturday Night Live skit that went on waaaayyyyy too long, but the jokes were always like news stories about Lindsey Lohan. If you don't like one, don't worry. There will be another in about 15 seconds. 30 Rock, you will be missed.
Archer, FX, Thursdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
Some of us lost our childhood innocence when we discovered the truth about Santa Claus. Others lost it the day we learned our favorite ballplayer was busted for a DUI. But for me, it was the release of Fritz the Cat. Suddenly, cartoons didn't have to be about cuddly dogs and funny squirrels. They could be about sex-crazed cats that talked like grownups. Which brings me to the latest season of the animated Archer. This secret agent parody is as adult as anything you'd find on pay cable, largely because you can apparently get away with more when your characters are all cartoons. However, the crassness isn't the reason to watch. You can come for the novelty of a show that makes South Park look like a Peanuts special, but you stay for the show's clever, snarky spirit.
Suits, USA, Thursdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
Ordinarily – and I don't think I'm alone in this – I look forward to talking with lawyers nearly as much as I look forward to discussing colonoscopies with my doctor. And yet….I genuinely get thrilled whenever this legal series comes back on the air. As it just has for a third season, continuing with the exploits of super lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), his protégé Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) and the rest of their swanky Manhattan firm. The characters are not always likable. They don't always win their cases. There's as much attention paid to the nasty internal politics of their firm as there is to the client of the week. All of which makes Suits seem more realistic than any legal show I've seen in ages and this may be the only occasion where spending time with real lawyers is considered a good thing.
Puppy Bowl IX, Animal Planet, Sunday, 3 p.m./2 p.m. CT
Football has always been a game that satisfies our animal instincts. The players bark out their calls. After a running play, they all end up in a big dog pile. The teams are named after Lions, Bears, Bengals, Colts and a wide variety of birds. Hence, it makes perfect sense that the Puppy Bowl has become as much a tradition on Super Bowl Sunday as the game with humans in it. It's got shelter dogs playing ball together. It's got cats performing a half-time show. It's got hedgehog cheerleaders and a star player named Butterscotch. And while the real game has players patting each other on the rear end after a good play, the Puppy Bowl has players sniffing each other's instead.
Super Bowl XLVII, CBS, Sunday, 6:30 p.m./5:30 p.m. CT
San Francisco 49ers. Baltimore Ravens. Beyonce at halftime. Million dollar commercials. Potentially embarrassing cutaway shots of celebrities in the crowd (the image of Cameron Diaz feeding Alex Rodriguez popcorn at last year's game remains as memorable as the game). What more do you need? There's a reason the Super Bowl is the most-watched TV event of the year. There's really something in it for everyone. Unless, of course, you're a New England Patriot fan. Which is why my empty soul may be more satisfied watching the Walking Dead marathon starting at 3 on AMC.