February will be remembered as much by what happened as by what didn’t really happen in popular culture. It was a loaded month for humongous events, with the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards and Oscars all crammed into a 22-day period. Those three nights account for massive TV ratings, hours of Monday morning workplace chatter and a seemingly endless stream of social media snark. But the biggest story to come out of America’s biggest nights for professional sports, music and movies? 34 minutes of awkward darkness.
Super Bowl XLVII: Lights out
The third largest TV audience of all time was treated to about two quarters of exciting football, a rousing halftime show from Beyonce and an unexpectedly small, tolerable dose of Ray Lewis. But it wasn’t Jacoby Jones or Destiny’s Child that became the center of attention; it was the powerless Superdome, the floundering talking heads trying to keep the show rolling and the chance that, at any given moment, Bane might stroll out to midfield for a garbled monologue about chaos. The Super Bowl XLVII blackout will live on as a “remember when?” conversation topic — much like “the wardrobe malfunction” and “the helmet catch” — during big game gatherings in the years to come. And if the memories of Ravens and 49ers stretching in a dark dome are to go down in Super Bowl lore, there’s a specific part of the story I hope we don’t forget as years pass: Jim Nantz’s terribly lame joke about Phil Simms having caused the power failure by plugging in his cellphone. (The poor sap had 34 minutes and that’s the best he came up with?)
Awards shows come and go
Well, the 85th annual Academy Awards and the 55th annual Grammy Awards definitely happened. Each had mildly annoying hosts (LL Cool J and his constant hashtag mongering and Seth MacFarlane’s occasional reaching-to-offend cracks) and both generously spread out their awards among obvious choices and a few surprises. Unlike 2012, when Adele and “The Artist” ran away with armloads of awards, no one entertainer came out looking dominant. Mumford & Sons took the top Grammy prize for “Babel,” despite the album being less interesting and inspired than their previous. Ben Afflecks’ “Argo” was a big winner at the Oscars, but his directing snub prevented him from really owning the night. Instead, it was the charming, shot-guzzling Jennifer Lawrence tripping her way into everyone’s hearts with a Best Actress win and the backstage press conference of the century.
‘The Walking Dead’ slogs back to TV
The AMC zombie phenomenon “The Walking Dead” returned to television after a midseason hiatus and continued to devour ratings like Daniel Day-Lewis devours his Oscars competition. This month’s episodes have continued the build-up to the inevitable showdown between Rick, Daryl and our filthy, moping gang of survivors and the eyepatch-sporting Governor and his faceless Woodbury drones. While the man vs. man setup this season has been refreshing, each week serves as a reminder that “The Walking Dead” isn’t even close to in the same league as AMC’s other top notch shows. But quality-proof or not, it’s still a ratings juggernaut: “The Talking Dead,” the half-hour chit chat show that follows each episode drew more viewers last Sunday than anything on NBC’s slate for that entire week.
Bonnaroo unloads impressive lineup
Each winter, thousands of music fans briefly escape the winter blues by poring over summer music festival news and rumors and, then on the day the lineup is released, react in either a joyous or outraged frenzy. The big three summer festivals are Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Coachella’s announcement came earlier this year and, with headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Stone Roses, Blur and Phoenix, left much to be desired despite a solid undercard. Expectations for Bonnaroo then dipped, with fears of a talent draught plaguing the 2013 festival season. But Bonnaroo had magic up its sleeve, unveiling a loaded lineup that boasts Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mumford & Sons, Bjork, Wilco and enough second-tier acts (and curveballs like “Weird Al,” Billy Idol and Ed Helms playing bluegrass) to make a half-day drive to Manchester, Tenn. a summer centerpiece.
Nine Inch Nails retooled, recharged
Four years ago, the Trent Reznor-led musical entity Nine Inch Nails waved goodbye with a run of sold-out shows in small venues, putting their trend-setting industrial rock up on the shelf for the foreseeable future. On the heels of his new band How To Destroy Angels’ first full-length release, Reznor widened the eyes of his legions of NIN supporters by announcing a revamped lineup (“The band is reinventing itself from scratch”) and shows planned later this year.
Netflix deals ‘House of Cards’
The most talked about new TV show so far of 2013 might not even be one that actually aired. On the first of February, Netflix dropped the entire first season of their new political drama onto their streaming service and let viewers rip through at their own pace. “House of Cards” is a top-quality product, executive produced (and a few episodes directed) by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey as the ruthless slimeball House Majority Whip Frank Underwood. The delivery method was the big story, but the addicting storytelling is what’s leaving viewers eagerly awaiting the next batch of episodes.
–Shane Nyman, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @shanenyman