Paramount+ Keeps Climbing With Some High-Altitude Comedy

This Paramount+ Super Bowl “Mountain of Entertainment” commercial is so smart, edgy, and loaded with clever references that all two minutes of it should be studied by future pop culture historians.

It might be the altitude, but I’ll admit that it took me a while to get all the metajokes and dark subtext within it, a cerebral space that felt almost hallucinogenic. Also, way over-the-top. (Heh.)

The ad opens some 12,000+ feet up on “Paramount Mountain” (aka, home of the studio’s 100-year-old logo) where a circle of seemingly random, ragtag characters in both animated and carbon-based forms -- none of them dressed for the icy temps -- are trying to summit. Among them is Drew Barrymore, “Survivor”’s Jeff Probst, Pepa the Pig, football star Tua Tagovailoa, Knuckles from "Sonic the Hedgehog," and Lt. “Hot Pants” Dangle from “Reno 411!,” all captained by the ever-masterly Sir Patrick Stewart.



And while the video is open to everyone in the TV universe, it seems hypertargeted to millennials, with abundant references to the late 1990s-early 2000s stuff that they grew up with, like Nickelodeon’s  “Hey, Arnold!,” and the post-Grunge band Creed. (Sorry, but I found their super-serious power ballads comically overwrought.)

But now that the band is back together, their hit song “Higher” works perfectly as the musical bed for the spot. The way they suddenly show up on the mountaintop is good for a laugh, too. As is Dingle’s “Creed” tramp stamp, an unfortunate sight that was also endemic to the early 2000s.

It starts with our Captain, Sir Patrick Stewart, with echoes of “Star Trek’’s Picard, leading the herd.

After throwing an anchor and rope and missing, Tua, (in his Miami Dolphins quarterback uniform, eye black and all) informs the group that he could reach it if he had a football to attach the rope to.

Stewart looks around, mercilessly focusing on Arnold, that sweet fourth grader with the tender but unfortunately football-shaped head, and says the unthinkable.

In his most stentorian voice, Sir Patrick announces, “Throw the child!”  This unbelievably cruel phrase is a showstopper.  It has the brutal bite of Shakespeare or Greek mythology, but it seems to have been written for a Superbowl streamer promo.

Plus, more kudos to the writers for their psycho-insight: It seems the Picard character had “trouble interacting with children.”

Drew tells him he can’t “throw a child,” and he comes back at her like a Satanic madman, screaming, “Barrymore, shut your face!”

He makes another mean metajoke, as Sir Pat says to Tua, who is not known for throwing bombs, “Not built for the moment, I see. “   

Thus, taking matters into his own hands, Stewart throws off his coat, revealing a hilarious football costume straight out of 1918.

He even wears a medieval looking leather cardholder on his wrist reading “Throw the child!”

And then, switching to some golf and baseball phrases as he goes for the throw, Stewart joins that other Arnold, Schwarzenegger, and the Beckhams, as 2024 Superbowl spokespeople who seem very confused.

The special effect of his hands on Arnold’s head are hilarious, so well done, and yet appalling. Our little star is clearly animated, but my heart was in my mouth as he gets hurled at a wall of rocks.

I’ll stop here (a little cliff-hanger, if you will.) I won’t give away the ending, but Captain does move on to an even more heartbreaking victim, someone who’d be covered with um, pigskin.

Meanwhile, Paramount+ can take two minutes to air this gonzo extravaganza because it is the streaming service formerly known as CBS All Access, which includes Nickelodeon, MTV, and such disparate franchises as “Survivor,” “The Drew Barrymore Show,” and “Reno 411!”

This year the bowl will be broadcast on CBS and streamed on P+. In another first, Paramount+ is broadcasting a separate Super Bowl for kids on Nickelodeon, where we’ll perhaps find a resurrected Arnold. 

As Stewart’s voiceover gravely intones in the opener, “On Paramount Mountain, the stakes get higher.”  

It’s not a great time for streaming services not named Netflix.

But just as Paramount+ has set out to do, this spot delivers a mountain of entertainment.

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