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Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

New replay highlights coverage

January 29, 2001

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— This was not your father's Super Bowl telecast.

From the six hours of pregame hoopla, to the MTV influences and references, to the often spectacular debut of rotating replays, CBS Sports' first Super Bowl broadcast in nine years was decidedly a nod to the video generation.

And the network certainly has a winner in "EyeVision," the instant replay system that seems inspired by arcade games.

Announcers Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms were solid when they weren't shilling for the network, and the reporting, graphics and other production elements were also fine.

But "EyeVision" was the true TV star during Baltimore's 34-7 victory Sunday over New York in Tampa, Fla.

The system employed 30 digital cameras that synchronized to focus on a particular player, showing views that spun about 270 degrees. Think of the action scenes in "The Matrix."

CBS' new toy was impressive on two second-half plays.

The TV audience expected to be upward of 120 million people tuning in for at least part of the game was shown three different points of view during Jermaine Lewis' 84-yard kickoff return for a Baltimore touchdown. Then, on the game's final TD, "EyeVision" was deployed to demonstrate that Ravens running back Jamal Lewis did indeed have the ball across the goal line before fumbling.

When they stuck to the game, Simms and Gumbel were quite good. Gumbel who made a little history as the first black play-by-play announcer to work a Super Bowl telecast didn't miss a call, while Simms provided his customary clear explanations.

Producer Mark Wolff and coordinating director Larry Covalina were on the ball with a few exceptions, including failing to show helpful replays after a penalty wiped out a Giants touchdown in the first half.

There were, of course, other little glitches, such as when overzealous use of microphones picked up at least two players yelling obscenities during player introductions.

Some say the best reason to watch the Super Bowl is for the commercials; CBS might concur, since it pulled in more than $2 million per 30-second ad.

There was a big drop in the number of dot-com advertisers from a year ago, while the best spots were turned in by Pepsi (with Bob Dole spoofing his old Viagra ads) and MasterCard (with an auction of the color red and gravity demonstrating that "there are some things money can't buy").

Any respite from the overdone pregame programming the six hours were nearly twice as long as the game itself took, and 50 percent more than ABC's pregame last year was welcomed. Except, perhaps, the "battle of the bands" halftime show produced by MTV, CBS's Viacom sibling.

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