Madonna at the halftime show, a 21-17 victory for the New York Giants over the New England Patriots, and, of course, those Super Bowl commercials – Sunday night had it all.
Here, PEOPLE's TV critic, Tom Gliatto, assesses the spectacular spots that appeared between some of the game's greatest moments on the field.
In a surprisingly funny and effective promo for America's Got Talent, that aired during Sunday night's Super Bowl on NBC, new judge Howard Stern literally blasted a lousy singer offstage with a firehose. That's how you maybe felt sitting through all the evening's ads (which reportedly sold at an average rate of $3.5 million for half minute): punished yet also somehow refreshed by the onslaught of jokes, concepts and images.
Audi. A hot young vampire arrives at a bloodsuckers' outdoor party, but his LED headlights are so strong they detonate all his friends into a poof of fire and cinder. I'm not sure if the selling point is the power of the headlights or the stupidity of young vampires, but either way I agree. By the way, the doom-delivering driver is Nico Evers-Swindell, who played Prince William in Lifetime's William & Kate.
Doritos. One of the finalists in the chip's Crash the Super Bowl contest. A dog bribes a man with a bag of the Doritos not to reveal the whereabouts of a missing cat. Short, silly, funny – instantly re-watchable – with a twist at the end that would have pleased Alfred Hitchcock.
Honda CR-V. The most-hyped ad of the game, this homage to 1980's Ferris Bueller's Day Off took the joke further than it needed to go – why should anyone have to catch a reference to Ben Stein from the original movie? – but Matthew Broderick gave a perfectly understated mini-performance as a man enjoying his day in L.A. Man should have a sitcom.
VW. Yes, another animal ad. Yes, another car ad. An overweight dog, unable to squeeze through the doorflap to chase after a shiny red Volkswagen, puts himself on an exercise and diet regimen. Finest sight gag of the whole night: The fat dog looks at his plump reflection in the mirror and whines. I only wish they'd bagged the ad's tone-shifting coda: a Star Wars scene tying in with last year's delightful VW ad that featured a kid dressed as Darth Vader.
TaxACT. A tiny fable to explain the benefit and pleasure of being able to do something free. A little boy in the swimming pool realizes he needs to relieve himself. Unable to avail himself of a bathroom, he returns to the pool and secretly – happily – urinates. I wouldn't want the freedoms in the Bill of Rights explained this way, but it's fine to highlight the tax software's availability.
David Beckham Bodywear/H&M. If I had David Beckham's body, face and even tattoos, and if I were being shot in artistic black and white in my shorts, I should hope I would at least have the decency to go ahead and vogue. Beckham was trying very hard to look uncomfortably ambivalent at having to offer himself up as a sex object. Silly David Beckham. This sort of thing was done right by Adrien Brody, Gael Garcia Bernal and Andre 3000 in their ad for the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler.
Pepsi. A fussily conceived and designed spot imagining Elton John as a tyrannical king, along with X Factor winner Melanie Amaro as a Joan of Arc figure who defies him by singing "Respect," and Flavor Flav below them in the dungeon. Runner-up: Jerry Seinfeld's Acura NSX ad, which concluded with an unfunny cameo by Jay Leno.
Old Navy. A case of being too clever: a faux commercial for a faux men's clothing line called Corporado, modeled by a man of thickening waist who looks like Big Love's Bill Paxton ready to take his ladies out to the mall. But we knew Old Navy wasn't any of that, didn't we?