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Scott D. Pierce: Costas knows Super Bowl pregame won't be great TV

Published January 31, 2012 11:12 pm

NBC • Of necessity, it will include both football and fluff — and an interview with Madonna.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This year's Super Bowl telecast will be preceded by the traditional, ridiculously long pregame show. And it won't all be great sports journalism, as the host readily concedes.

"It's the Super Bowl. Has a six-hour pregame. I'll try to do my best to make it good," said Bob Costas, who will be anchoring the TV marathon.

Clearly, football purists aren't going to like everything that goes into a six-hour pregame. But, c'mon, does anyone expect it will be riveting TV on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. MST on NBC/Channel 5?

Costas himself admitted he won't be interested in all the entertainment aspects. But he did promise there will be elements that "will be of interest to both avid football fans and the casual viewers who fill out the audience and make it the biggest single audience in all of American television. So there's a good blend there."

That remains to be seen. NBC does, however, have the advantage of following Fox's telecast of last year's Super Bowl, when the hucksterism of Fox stars and Fox shows spun completely out of control.

It will be hard not to look good by comparison.

Costas, sounding a bit put out, made a good point when he said the show has to be more than just X's and O's.

His first Super Bowl pregame, back in 1986, ran two hours "and we thought it was very long," he said. "And now this is expanded to six hours. By definition, there's some excess."

Even some humor.

"There has to be a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek and there has to be a little bit of winking at the audience," Costas said. "The entire six hours will not be, from my perspective, a 10-out-of-10 in terms of what I would be interested in. But some of it may be to someone else. That's just the way it goes down. You try to do as professional job as you can."

The chairman of NBC Sports, Mark Lazarus, insisted, "What you'll see from us is a respect for the game." But he also spoke about "obligations and opportunities for our company" to use that huge Super Bowl audience to its advantage.

In other words, expect to be inundated with promos for NBC shows like "The Voice" and "Smash." Expect to see lots of hype for the NBC Sports Network.

When you're paying billions in rights fees, you can do what you want with the time. Costas did insist that the pregame show will be more than just fluff.

"It's our job to try and present some fresh and engaging material that people haven't already been beaten over the head with in the two weeks leading up to" the game, he said. "We will have elements in our show that others don't."

Including "extensive sit-down interviews" with Giants QB Eli Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady. A look back at the two teams' 2008 Super Bowl matchup "with participants that no one else has."

"Even an interview with Madonna," said Costas.

She is performing at halftime, so that's legit. In a casual-football fan kind of way.

And football purists have to remember that there are a lot of casual fans who tune in. For tens of millions of viewers, this is an event more than it is a game.

If all you care about is the Giants-Patriots matchup, skip the early hours of the pregame. Lazarus said that as kickoff approaches, the show will become "more and more about this game."

Just be prepared to hear more about "The Voice" than you ever wanted to hear.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Send him an email to atspierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog atsltrib.com/blogs/tv.