NEW YORK (AP) — Clint Eastwood's patriotic pep talk about "halftime in America" might just as well have applied to NBC.
The languishing, fourth-place network, owned by Comcast Corp., needed more than a touchdown from Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast — that much was assured with a marquee rematch between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. No, NBC needed to kick-start its own second half.
It had little to complain about, getting an increasingly riveting game that came down to the final play, a buzzed-about halftime show with Madonna and no notable flub (except for a middle finger from singer M.I.A. that slipped past censors) that interfered with a solid, well-produced broadcast of the game.
But it will surely take more than Eli Manning's heroics to rescue NBC primetime.
The cross-promotion had an almost desperate feel, as if some NBC executive had wagered his life on the audience awareness score of the network's two biggest hopes: the reality singing competition "The Voice" (which was given the plush postgame time slot to premiere its second season) and the Steven Spielberg-produced drama "Smash" (which premieres Monday, after, naturally, another two hours of "The Voice").
"It's hard to believe this is the last Super Bowl in the pre-Smash era," tweeted Seth Meyers of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
But in between ads for "Smash," the Patriots and Giants played a closely contested game before Manning and Tom Coughlin yet again defeated Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, as they did four years ago in Super Bowl XLII.
Since then, the television landscape has changed, as was evidenced by Sunday's broadcast. In a first, it was streamed live online on both NFL.com and NBCSports.com. The feed was a sure forerunner to more streaming sports, but was rudimentary, with variable camera angles, slight social media integration and about a 30-second delay.
On TV, the echoes of Super Bowl XLII were sometimes eerie, and play-by-play team Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth didn't miss any chance to compare the two games.
"Wow," said Collinsworth as the teams vied in the tense fourth quarter. "We should just have these teams play all the time."
Michaels, not missing a beat to promote NBC's "Sunday Night Football," added: "On Sunday night."
That both Giants wins were enabled by remarkable receptions — earlier by David Tyree against his helmet, Sunday by Mario Manningham on the sideline — was fittingly cited. At another moment, when Brady eluded a pass rush and then heaved an interception, Collinsworth, recalling Manning's disappearing act four years ago, said it was "like the opposite of the last Super Bowl."
In his second Super Bowl but first for NBC, Collinsworth, the former Cincinnati Bengal and longtime dispenser of no-nonsense, offered proof that he's the best color man in the business. He was most at home in the biggest moments, when commentators are most needed.
Before the thrilling final drives, the game at times seemed oddly lacking mojo. Was it the lack of Tebowing? The missing cutaways to Peyton Manning?
The broadcast was led by NBC's "Sunday Night Football" crew and overseen by producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff. An audience anticipated to top 100 million (last year's drew a record 111 million average viewers) helped NBC sell $250 million in advertising, with 30-second commercials going for as much as $3.5 million.
With such high stakes, NBC spared no expense, following the action with some 40 cameras. The usual, bloated six-hour-long pregame show preceded the game, anchored by Bob Costas and Dan Patrick.
Though there was plenty of the usual hype that accompanies the Super Bowl, NBC's broadcast benefitted from its stable of respected personalities, all of whom are generally pomp-resistant. Costas and Patrick keep perspective tempered in their own way: Costas, earnestly journalistic; Patrick, sardonically skeptical.
Their presences were needed in the pregame, an annual bit of programming excess that does little more than give Super Bowl parties a background image and supply TV critics with something to bemoan.
Costas earned the Nostradamus award for his interview with Brady, in which he asked the quarterback if he'd rather be up with a few minutes to go and be in the sideline, or be down with the ball. Brady answered the latter, but after seeing his Hail Mary fall the ground, he might want to reconsider.
While NBC kept the festivities closer to the game than some, it still offered the cringe-inducing "Super Suite" red carpet show. Singer and actor Nick Cannon awkwardly and superficially interviewed celebrities such as Adam Sandler and Katharine McPhee, the star of "Smash." McPhee hit a low point by trying to force a comparison of her character to a young Brady.
Few of NBC's stars didn't make cameos of some kind, from Brian Williams to "30 Rock" sketches. NBC also hyped its new NBC Sports Network, as well as its coming coverage of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Sometimes, the feature profiles felt very much like an NBC Olympics
One highlight was Peter King's heart-rending report on former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Thankfully, King didn't shy away from considering the link between brain disease and football, a topic that didn't come up in the game broadcast.
Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward and Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers joined regular NBC analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, but it was the former Patriot, Harrison, who stood out. Harrison is an odd combination of candid and cocky that improves on often too-soft studio vibe.
The nearing of the game (finally!) was also matched by a deeper dive into commercialism as the primetime ads geared up. Aside from the normal animal tricks and male chauvinism, the spots struck a tone of recession-minded nostalgia.
Budweiser reflected on the end of prohibition, General Electric touted its old-fashioned manufacturing with its "G.E. works" campaign, and even "Star Wars" returned in a Volkswagen ad and a trailer for a new 3-D release. When Eastwood gravely intoned about America's second half for Chrysler, some wondered if he was hocking cars or running for president.
There were touches of reminiscing, too, in the seemingly lip-synced halftime performance of Madonna, pop royalty at 53.
It was during moments like those that it was clear that no number of NBC commentators could match those on Twitter. The social media stream of real-time conversation is now as much a part of Super Sunday as nachos and chicken wings.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
A two-car crash tied up traffic for a short time on Illinois Road at the entrance to Jefferson Pointe.
It's been a year since FBI agents and police raided several homes in Fort Wayne. The center of the investigation was Michael Fabini's home.
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not toxic to humans or pets. Some mild side effects are possible if they are eaten.
A Fort Wayne man had the opportunity to have lunch with Nelson Mandela 20 years ago. He says the experience is something he has carried with him throughout the years.
The suspects face bank robbing charges, as well as charges of assaulting and putting in jeopardy the lives of others.
The yellow brick building that served for decades as the club house for the Elks Lodge 155 golf course in Fort Wayne is being demolished.
Buffalo Wild Wings donated $6,500 to the Boys & Girls Club's Fairfield location on Friday afternoon. The money will be used for youth sports tournaments.
A new event promises 12 days of delicious deals at Fort Wayne restaurants in January.
A woman arrested for shoplifting at a Fort Wayne Walmart identified herself as her husband's ex-wife when she was actually the man's current wife. The ex-wife then ended up getting arrested when the real wife failed to show up for court.
Gov. Mike Pence has ordered flags at Indiana state facilities to be flown at half-staff in tribute of Nelson Mandela and is asking businesses and residents to do so also to honor the world leader.
A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of wintry weather. Some areas are experiencing frigid temperatures. Some are seeing snow and ice. Several deaths have been reported, most resulting from treacherous driving conditions. Hundreds of…
Frigid temperatures and a cold Saint Joseph River didn't stop approximately 100 students from jumping into the river as part of Homecoming Week at IPFW.
The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are seeing a decline in donations this year because of a late Thanksgiving.
Global civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, whose legacy is ending South African apartheid, has died.
Fort Wayne is not expected to take the brunt of an approaching winter weather system, but everyone will experience frigid temperatures and some could see sleet and snow.