When I was growing up, television wasn't just that thing you yelled at your kids to stop watching or that device you used as a perfectly acceptable excuse for avoiding trips out into the real world (not that there's anything wrong with that….). It was a social tool, bringing the country together en masse. Whether it was saying goodbye with the M*A*S*H finale or discovering who plugged J.R. on Dallas, tens of millions of people sat down at the very same time to watch major television events.
These days, with so many shows on so many channels, we seldom get that communal viewing experience. Unless you count the Jersey Shore cast going to Italy, I guess. Or the Super Bowl, coming again this weekend. It's traditionally the most-viewed event of the year, the one program that brings everyone together in front of a flat-screen for four hours. Still, I realize there are a few people here and there who don't want to watch Tom Brady (I hope) bring the Patriots another Super Bowl win. So for you, here are a few alternative viewing choices for Super Sunday.
Real Housewives Marathon, Bravo, 8:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m CT
Talk about playing games….the guys on the field in pads in helmets have nothing on these ladies from Orange County, Beverly Hills and Atlanta. Tearing down an opponent's defenses? Making passes while trying to score? Piling on needlessly and getting penalized? Nobody does any of that better than these "Real" (I use quotes because, c'mon now, who are we kidding here?) Housewives, and Bravo has wisely decided to allow them to do their thing all day. So while men across America are watching football players and fantasizing about what it'd be like to be those guys playing in the big game, women can watch and feel better they're not these people.
ABC Family Movie Marathon, 9 a.m./8 a.m. CT
Chick Flicks: Take One. To counter-program against the Super Bowl, ABC Family has gone to the other extreme with a movie marathon guaranteed to suck away any testosterone that might be in the room. Well, I take that back. The first four movies will certainly have some guy appeal: all four films in the Bring It On series of cheerleader movies. That could potentially be something to lure guys away from the game. The next two, however, are Mama Mia and Dirty Dancing. Which will ensure the men get back to the game even if the score is 52-3. Because if the score's that bad, maybe the teams will just put their in cheerleaders at that point.
AMC Movie Marathon, 2:30 p.m./1:30 p.m. CT
Chick Flicks: Take Two. AMC has the same idea, getting the moms first with Ghost and Sleepless In Seattle and then capturing the kid crowd as well with a showing of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. While the football fans are in one room weeping tears of joy (or sadness, depending on which team's jersey he/she happens to be wearing for the game), the rest of the family will be in another sobbing away at the ends of these happy-weepy flicks. Either way, you might want to pick up extra tissues when you're picking up extra nacho fixings for the party.
Puppy Bowl VIII, Animal Planet, 3 p.m./2 p.m. CT
In the Game Day rush to find the perfect guacamole for your Super Bowl party or shoe stores having sales you can indulge in all afternoon, one thing always seems to get forgotten. How are you going to keep your pets entertained? So how about correcting that this year, and finding an extra flat-screen so Mr. Skittles or Buster or Princess can watch this annual Animal Planet tradition? Fifty-eight puppies will be playing their version of football on a pet-sized field, with a halftime show featuring 20 cats, a cheer squad with five pigs and a bird that will be (let's groan together) "tweeting." All the animals are from rescue agencies and will apparently be available for adoption afterward. Now if only the Super Bowl worked that way, and you got to pick a player to move in and be your best friend after the game….
Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team, CMT, 5 p.m./4 p.m. CT
I'm not so sure this reality series is actually counter-programming to the game. After all, it's hours and hours of scantily clad women dancing around trying to become part of America's most famous cheerleadering team, with occasional glimpses of pro football players as well. In fact, if you're not a Patriot of Giant fan, you may end up on CMT at some point. And justify the switch over from the Super Bowl by saying you're doing it for your wife and daughter "because they like this sort of thing."
The Commercials During the Game, NBC, 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m.CT/8 p.m. PT
The hype leading up to the big day is endless. Nothing but story after story in the media about what we'll get to see on Super Sunday, who the winners and the losers will be, what key surprise will have everyone buzzing the next day. And I'm just talking about the commercials. Super Bowl Sunday has become like Oscar Night for ads, with every major tortilla chip maker, beer company and car manufacturer pulling out all the stops with their most interesting, outrageous spots. So what if you have to sit through the whole game to see them. Judging by two that have already been leaked – dogs barking the Darth Vader theme for Volkswagen and Matthew Broderick doing a new twist on Ferris Bueller for Honda – I can guarantee it'll be worth it. Which, unfortunately, I can't guarantee about the game.
The Voice, NBC, After the Game
If you can stick out the competition during the Super Bowl, you'll be rewarded by more competition afterward when this American Idol alternative returns for a second season. Same big, Star Trek-looking chairs. Same four coaches – Christina Augilera, Cee-Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. Same concept, with each coach picking singers sight unseen for their teams. Same approach, with eager musicians who have touching stories trying to be famous. It all worked last year, so there's no reason to think it won't work again.
Luck, HBO, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
So football isn't your thing. The Super Bowl just doesn't have enough drama to keep you happy and entertained. How about horse racing then? That's the subject of this new HBO series, starring Dustin Hoffman as an ex-con trying to work his way back into the only existence he knows – life at the racetrack. I'll get into this more next week, but in a sense, Luck is a lot like the Super Bowl. Those who love the subject matter will enjoy the show because it's steeped in it. And those who don't care much for the topic can also find something to enjoy because the drama is so taught it grabs you anyway.
For more shows you should be watching, check out: