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Super Bowl viewer's guide

Bruno Mars teaches a

Bruno Mars teaches a "class" in what he calls “R&B 101" as part of his performance at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (June 29, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Watch the game on your big screen, and use your laptops and smart devices to comment on plays, commercials and more with our in-game live chat at But as you watch, here are some key things to look for:

Jersey's soprano sequel

It took mere seconds after word got out that Renee Fleming will sing the Super Bowl national anthem for wiseguys (and gals) on Twitter to joke that it was only appropriate. After all, she's a soprano and the game is in New Jersey.

Get it?

But seriously, Fleming is a serious opera singer, the first to belt out "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the big game.

And why not? Pop stars aren't everything. In one stretch from 2008-12, four of five Super Bowl anthem singers (and three in a row) were "American Idol" alums -- Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.

The exception was Christina Aguilera in 2011, and she messed up the lyrics.

In 2012, Ms. Fleming appeared on HBO's "Masterclass," but never, as far as we know, on "The Sopranos." Pity.

Mars ready for takeoff

Many people assumed the NFL would hire a performer with New York-area ties for halftime of the New York-area Super Bowl, what with there being a fair number of popular acts who grew up in the region. Quaint, and naive!

Alas, Super Bowl halftimes do not follow that sort of logic; they merely are part of elaborate sponsorship/promotional deals, in this case with Pepsi.

So Bruno Mars, who grew up in Hawaii, will do the honors for the first cold-weather Super Bowl -- and be joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were formed in Los Angeles.

The popular Mr. Mars, 28, is part of a recent youth trend in halftime acts after the NFL went AARP in the several years immediately following Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction.

Super Bowl mashes ratings competition

It took 27 years for an American television show to surpass the 1983 "M*A*S*H" finale in average viewership, but it has happened four times in the past four Super Bowls.

In fairness, there are nearly 100 million more Americans now than when Hawkeye Pierce caught a helicopter out of Korea, but still, a pretty impressive recent streak for the big game.

The four most-viewed non-breaking news programs in United States TV history:

Super Bowl XLVI (2012), 111.3 million

Super Bowl XLV (2011), 111.0 million

Super Bowl XLVII (2013), 108.7 million

Super Bowl XLIV (2010), 106.5 million

"M*A*S*H" finale (1983), 106.0 million

'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' in postgame spotlight

Networks long ago figured out that using the Super Bowl as a lead-in is an excellent way to give massive ratings boosts to shows it would like to promote to a wider audience.

That used to mean introducing new shows, but lately the trend has been special episodes of existing programs.

The last two times Fox carried the big game, it featured "House" and "Glee" after the confetti was done falling.

This time it's a double feature of one show whose quirky adorableness has started to wear thin ("New Girl") and one whose quirky adorableness has started to be recognized by audiences and critics ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine").

Football-related bonus: Tonight's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" will include a guest appearance by Joe Theismann!

No casual Sunday in Fox booth

Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman had planned not to wear jackets and ties under their parkas while calling Super Bowl XLVIII, which might have been a Super Bowl first.

Now it won't happen. Buck said Saturday night that because of the forecast of warm weather, he and Aikman will, in fact, be dressed the way they normally do for such big occasions.

Groundhog jokes shadow game's date

Bill Murray is a football fan -- specifically, a Bears fan -- but as of press time there had been no word of a role for him in the Super Bowl telecast or pregame festivities.

But there should be! This is the first game in NFL history to be played on Feb. 2, prompting groundhog-related weather jokes since the date was announced.

There were no significant sports-related themes in the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day," starring Murray, but attending Media Day for the 13th time did remind me a bit of reliving the same day over and over.

Missed opportunity: None of the wacky characters in the media horde dressed as "Needlenose Ned" Ryerson.

TV's focus on big apple

Super Bowl pregame shows generally have been consistent in length in recent years, running from 2 to 6 p.m., and mostly serving as background noise as party guests arrive.

This year is no exception, but one thing that will be different is Fox's focus on the New York area. As it should be.

Among the planned features are one on Brooklyn's (and Fordham's) own Vince Lombardi, New York-area-based NFL title games of the past and the late Giants kicker (and Fox announcer) Pat Summerall.

All good. Unfortunately, Fox also will bring back its traditional red carpet show, in which Michael Strahan and Charissa Thompson will chat awkwardly with celebrities who might or might not have cogent thoughts on the game.


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