As basically everyone is aware, (doubly so if you happen to reside in the New York area like myself, where the game is being played) there is some sort of big football (not soccer) game being played this Sunday night that pretty much everyone in the country watches. Now while the game itself will likely be fantastic, it’s not inconceivable that you may not want to watch it (or may want to duck out during the halftime show—typically the weakest part of the broadcast). If so, it’s imperative to look into the counter-programming that occurs during the big game.
The first notable example of Super Bowl counter programming coincidentally enough came from this years broadcaster of the big game: Fox. Going up against Super Bowl XXVI, with it’s tepid ice themed halftime show (the game may have been played in 1992, but the halftime show looked like something out of 1971), Fox unleashed a special Super Bowl themed edition of the seminal sketch comedy show In Living Color. People tuned out from halftime in droves, leading the organizers of the following year’s event to schedule a just barely past prime Michael Jackson to perform at halftime. USA scored a similar victory in 1999, with viewers tuning into their Halftime Heat at the half of a snooze-worthy Broncos-Falcons tilt.
So with that being said, where are the best spots to find refuge from Sunday’s main event?
Avoid the major networks: While it’s pretty self-explanatory the reason for ducking Fox, the other major networks don’t fare much better. CBS, ABC, and NBC are all on reruns Sunday night, as their lucrative TV deals with the NFL (ABC owns ESPN broadcaster of Monday Night Football and is rumored to be bidding for the Thursday Night Football package as well) that prevent them from attempting a counter programming ratings stunt to swipe away viewers. If there is one shining light, it’s that Fox put the strongest possible pairing for after the game, with new episodes of New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the vaunted post Super Bowl slot.
For the first time ever, another Super Bowl Sunday institution is under attack: If there is one piece of consistent Super Bowl counter programming over the past few years, it’s the Puppy Bowl. This year marks the 10th installment of the event, which runs from mid-afternoon all the way till 3 in the morning, with the best halftime show this Sunday: Keyboard Cat. Dueling with that will be Hallmark Channel’s first ever Kitten Bowl, which runs from noon eastern. However, the Puppy Bowl will still have an edge with it’s newest feature: Fantasy Puppy Bowl, meaning that everyone who hates football can now understand why everyone who watches sports is addicted to fantasy sports.
Marathons around the Dial: There are some quality marathons out there if you look around the cable dial. Is Horror your fix? AMC has a The Walking Dead marathon out there this Sunday. Need something a little more fabulous? Bravo is running Real Housewives of Atlanta back to back all day, while E! Blocks together Sex and The City. Do you enjoy cop shows (If you watch CBS the answer to this question is a resounding yes)? If so, then look to USA’s Law and Order: SVU and Spike TV’s run of COPS. Last but not least, are you looking to laugh? VH1 is running reruns of Saturday Night Live, TBS is running the Shrek trilogy back-to-back-to-back and Comedy Central is marathoning Tosh.O (ok, that last one was a stretch).
If all else fails, there’s always Netflix: One of the largest upsides to the gradual move towards internet streaming is that fixed schedules are much less of an impediment than in the past. I recommend taking the opportunity to catch up on House of Cards (more on that in a couple of weeks), though obviously this can be replaced by a marathon of anything in their library.