The over/under for the number of households that will tune in to watch the Super Bowl tonight is 113 million. There has never been a larger event in the history of television. What I'm saying here is you don't have to be a fan of football to tune in. People who don't watch this Super Bowl will spend tonight and most of the next week being profoundly irrelevant.
We'll have to think of the counterprogramming options available, and any argument on behalf of any particular option, as aimed at people who genuinely have no interest in watching some or all of the Super Bowl. None of this stuff will likely persuade anyone to tune out, and no particular criticism of the NFL or football is likely to overpower the lure of the most viewed television broadcast in human history.
Some of you will not watch. Some of you will watch until you lose interest. Some of you will be interested in having something to switch to during commercials, or lulls in the action, or replays, or at halftime. The good news is, even while most networks have punted on counterprogramming against the Super Bowl – opting to air things like Cops reruns and even infomercials – there are a few half-decent TV marathons, a few genuinely fun/adorable competing events, and a handful of broadly appealing movies. I've also included a small selection of relatively newly released streaming options that can be rented for a few bucks on Amazon.
113 million households is a lot. Social media will be crushed with Super Bowl chatter. It will be damn hard to tune out and ignore. No one will think any less of you for watching what virtually everyone else in the country is watching, but if you're ever looking for something else, tonight, here's the best I could come up with:
5 p.m. — Animal Planet — Puppy Bowl XI
This is Lee. Lee will win the Puppy Bowl, because Lee is a boxer puppy, and boxers are the greatest of all living things. In fact, Lee has already won the Puppy Bowl. SHUT IT DOWN.
6 p.m. — Nat Geo — Fish Bowl II
From what I can tell, apparently the annual Fish Bowl is literally a goldfish, in a clear bowl, swimming around stupidly (as goldfish do), while the sounds of a raucous stadium crowd are played.
Here is a behind the scenes look at Fish Bowl II:
As you can see, this year Fish is joined by Other Fish (and possibly Other Other Fish?) and a buncha farm animals for some goddamn reason. But who will win?????
6 p.m. — Hallmark Channel — Kitten Bowl II
Controversy at the Kitten Bowl!
Here is the player profile for the best kitten. His name is Steve.
Steve is primed and ready to win this fuckin' thing, on account of he's cute as hell and his name is Steve, which is the best kitten name of all.
But! Here is a screengrab of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries game-day roster:
Where is Steve? Why has Steve been deactivated from the Kitten Bowl? In what way is this controversy related to Ballghazi? Why won't the Kitten Bowl Ambassador of Paws-itivity (we assume this is like a commissioner or whatever), Happy the Cat, return our phone calls?
Just what the hell is going on around here?
7 p.m. — Golf Channel — PGA Tour Golf: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Apparently this is the real, live final round of a real, live PGA event. ("The Waste Management Phoenix Open." Roll that one around for a second.) Who knew there would be non-pets playing sports during the Super Bowl?
6 p.m. — CNN — Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
CNN is missing an opportunity to send Don Lemon down to Arizona in the Giant 2015 Soup Bowl Controversy Mobile Production Unit for up-to-the-second breaking updates.
6 p.m. — ESPN — 30 for 30
ESPN is airing a marathon of 30 for 30s until 9:30 p.m. tonight. Sadly, they will not be airing The Two Escobars, which is the very best of these.
6 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Good old USA, sticking to their programming schedule like a bunch of heroes. SVU is on all night.
6 p.m. — AMC — The Walking Dead
AMC is offering a day-long Walking Dead marathon. From the looks of it all the episodes are from seasons one and two, for anyone who misses Shane.
6 p.m. — BBC America — Star Trek: The Next Generation
Break open in case of emergency.
6 p.m. — TBS — Shrek
Most networks punted on counterprogramming the Super Bowl. TBS went with a Shrek marathon, which isn't quite punting, but nor is it exactly reaching for the stars. Still, this is a fun, funny movie, and you could do a lot worse.
7 p.m. — FXM — Star Trek (2009)
Both J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies are really good. This will probably get me death-gripped by a bunch of Trekkie nerds, but I'd even go so far as to say they're among the top 3 or 4 of all Star Trek flicks.
7 p.m. — abc Family — Back to the Future
Tonight abc Family is busting out the Back to the Future trilogy, which is fairly solid counterprogramming, if you ask me. If I'm a disgusted fan of whoever is getting depantsed in the Super Bowl by halftime, and I come across Marty McFly and Doc Brown while avoiding Katy Perry's halftime bonanza, there's a fair chance of it capturing my attention long enough to escape the Super Bowl's orbit, at least around commercial breaks. That's probably about the best a competitor can hope for tonight.
8 p.m. — E! — Ghost
Admit it, this shit made you misty the first time you saw it. Admit it. Here and now.
8 p.m. — TBS — Shrek 2
I have no memory of this movie whatsoever. Is this the one where that fuckin cat is introduced? I hate that goddamn cat.
8 p.m. — FX — How to Train Your Dragon
This is a pretty cool kids' movie. I mean, it's definitely a kids' movie, but it's great looking, the main little dragon is adorable, and all the action stuff is really cool. This is what your kids will want to watch tonight.
9:30 p.m. — abc Family — Back to the Future Part II
This is my least-favorite of the BttF movies. I find it kind of depressing, actually.
Amazon 48 hr. Rental — Gone Girl
It's hard to imagine any way this movie could be improved. Rosamund Pike is spectacular, especially as her character and the story become more and more outrageous. You will not even remember the Super Bowl is on tonight if you opt for Gone Girl instead.
Amazon 48 hr. Rental — Boyhood
I'm surprised Boyhood is available as a rental. Usually a movie with this kind of buzz goes through a purchase-only phase once it hits Amazon's streaming service. No matter, it's a $3.99 48-hour rental, which is a sweet deal for what was pretty unanimously the best movie of 2014.
Amazon 48 hr. Rental — The Babadook
It gets a little away from itself towards the very end, but even at its silliest this is still a pretty damn great scary movie. It manages to depict a totally believable and troubling disintegrating relationship between the two main characters that makes them each seem particularly vulnerable. This ramps the intensity of the scares way up, to the point that they eventually become nearly unbearable (in the good, scary-movie way). Anyway, check it out.
Amazon 24 hr. Rental — A Most Wanted Man
It's a quiet, intense little spy flick, and I'm not sure all the casting moves work out (glares at Rachel McAdams), but Philip Seymour Hoffman is terrific, Robin Wright is effectively yucky as a semi-villain, and for the most part it's a smart, tense movie for grownups. And the ending is infuriating, devastating, and wonderful.
Amazon 48 hr. Rental — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This movie was never quite able to make me forget the basic silliness of a post-apocalyptic war between humans and talking apes, but that's not much of a knock. The action stuff is cool, the performances are all believable, and it's got a solid head on its shoulders. You will definitely not be bored.
Amazon 24 hr. Rental — Predestination
This movie got some good buzz, and Ethan Hawke is generally pretty good to watch. Apparently it's already gained a pretty serious cult following. Check it out.
Amazon 48 hr. Rental — The Drop
I feel like The Drop is already a pretty underrated, under-appreciated movie. It's got very good performances from Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, and someone named Matthias Schoenaerts, who makes a creepy, threatening villain while also somehow managing to stay just a little bit sympathetic. I've watched it twice, now, and I was just as into it the second time as the first. Definitely worth the $4.99 rental.
That's all I've got. Absolutely no one will blame you if you can't resist the pull of tonight's Super Bowl. Thanks for hanging in there this season. It's been real.