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Correction to This Article
An earlier version of TV column incorrectly described one of the Super Bowl commercials that was scrapped. The commercial featured Mickey Rooney's naked backside, not Andy Rooney's. This story has been corrected.

The Super Bowl's Ratings: Appropriately Decent

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page C07

Minus all hope that anything would break out, so to speak, a year after the debut of Janet Jackson's right breast, Sunday's Super Bowl scored the game's smallest audience in six years.

Nonetheless, more than 86 million viewers braved a practically puritanical four-hour broadcast to catch the New England Patriots beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville -- which will no doubt make it the most watched program of the entire TV season.

Paul McCartney played at halftime without so much as a guitar string snapping. The game's ratings were good, but not Janet Jackson good. (Phil Coale -- AP)

That said, it was the least watched of the Patriots' three Super Bowl wins in the past four years.

Still, when including a postgame blather-athon that lasted until 10:45 p.m., the result is the Fox network's most watched night in its history, with an average of more than 79 million viewers.

In the wake of last year's momentous Super Bowl broadcast, which featured not only Jackson's MTV-produced halftime show/breast reveal but also commercials with a flatulent horse, a crotch-grabbing dog and drugs that might leave men with four-hour erections, this year's game host Fox and the NFL decided to play it super-safe. They hired oldster Paul McCartney to perform at the halftime show, and oldster Don Mischer to produce it, and they nixed the most water-cooler-worthy commercials, including one for a cough medicine that featured Mickey Rooney's bare bottom, another explaining that Jackson's wardrobe had malfunctioned because some idiot had earlier used her bustier to open a bottle of Bud, and one with a priest who lusts after a pickup truck.

But despite Fox and the NFL's best efforts, TiVo reported yesterday that the most replayed moment during a Super Bowl commercial was when a strap snapped on the skimpy top of the buxom bimbette testifying before congressional decency police about her upcoming performance for a GoDaddy.com ad.

And while viewing levels during McCartney's show were slightly higher than last year's halftime performance, from which we can conclude that McCartney is more mainstream than Kid Rock, Nelly and Janet "has-been" Jackson, the latter's breast reveal remains the most replayed moment in TiVo history. Sadly, in this post-Jackson-breast era of 10-second delays and super-safe performances, TiVo may never see the likes of it again.

Following the postgame blather, a Super Bowl-themed episode of "The Simpsons" clocked an average of more than 23 million viewers. That's the long-running series's biggest crowd in 11 years, though it comes nowhere near the nearly 53 million who tuned in to the "Friends" episode following the 1996 Dallas-Pittsburgh Super Bowl game, which clocked more than 94 million viewers.

About 15 million "Simpsons" fans stuck around to watch the preview of another prime-time animated series, "American Dad." Unfortunately Fox won't debut that series until May, which is a lifetime away in TV.

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