A typical NFL Sunday blitzes the viewer with ad delights

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As you know, the grueling pace of producing 17 words per hour all week long -- plus the rigorous demands of lunch and personal phone calls -- leaves the small-but-dedicated Ad Review staff little time to engage in frivolous activities, such as reading magazines or watching television.

The consequence is, we don't tend to see a whole lot of . . . you know . . . advertising.

At least, not in its natural habitat. So periodically we rappel down the ivory tower and join the hoi polloi in an educational exercise of actual media consumption -- and it's always an eye-opener. (Did you know that Fox has its own TV network?)

Most recently we took in a Sunday of NFL football.

Wow! The first thing we noticed is that the teams now include a number of minority athletes, a pioneering development we applaud. Also, the single wing seems to have fallen into disfavor. But the most pleasant surprise was the advertising.

Usually, when we encounter actual TV commercials on actual TV programming, the majority leave us cold, or worse. Imagine our delight when the sound thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals by the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles was accompanied by one delightful ad spot after another. They aren't all brand new, but they sure are good.

Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser; DDB Worldwide, Chicago; 31/2 stars. The commercial jingle, long since given up for dead, is proved here to be criminally underemployed. The paen to the working-class beer drinker -- as exemplified previously by the classic "Miller Time" ("When it's time to relax . . .") and the original "This Bud's for you" -- is charmingly rejuvenated here. The buoyant music is contemporary, along Sheryl Crow lines, and the idealized, demographically diverse neighborhood shots look almost as believable as they are agreeable.

OK, maybe this spot is a little too Mister Rogers-ish to qualify as documentary, but it sure puts the "good" into "feel-good."

Southwest Airlines; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; 31/2 stars. As we have noted in the past, when Southwest uses its ad time solely to promote NFL football -- no matter how clever and funny the commercials are -- it's wasting its money. But when it contrives situations so embarrassing that the hapless victim of his own foolishness intensely must "wanna get away," the low-fare retail tag hits perfect pitch. The latest shows a nosy houseguest snooping in the powder room medicine cabinet (Ha! Clearasil!) only to have the shelves noisily collapse. Hilarious.

Volkswagen of America's Passat; Arnold Worldwide, Boston; 31/2 stars. Finally, finally, finally VW has found the meaning of the Passat, and a voice for this model to match the brilliance of its advertising for Jetta, Golf and the New Beetle. Here a young father is tooling around in his new sedan, marveling that he -- man-child -- is "responsible for the upbringing of another human being." The problem: telling his son not to eat an Oreo that has fallen on the floor, boilerplate parental advice conflicting with his own belief in "the 5-second rule." On the ground so briefly? Chow down. In other words, for your inner child: VW. For your outer grown up: Passat.

This is inspired.

AutoTrader.com; Doner, Southfield, Mich.; 3 stars. We said so once, and we'll say it again: You don't have to be funny to be clever. In this spot, which we originally reviewed for the Super Bowl, computer graphics, a la "The Matrix," are employed to demonstrate how easily this Web site arranges many used-car choices per your personal specifications. The cars instantly materialize -- whoosh -- onto the screen in combinations determined by a mouse click, and so does financing, in the person of a loan writer sitting at a desk. Vivid communication from a dot-com, with no jokes whatsoever. It's still a miracle.

Yesirree, this television watching was in every respect a very pleasant experience. We're thinking of doing it again soon. Perhaps we'll catch that lovely Joey Heatherton who so intrigues us. Or that funny Madge. Or maybe some more athletics.

Anyone know . . . what channel for "Wide World of Sports"?

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