Everyone's getting super psyched for the Super Bowl, which has something for everyone. Sports fans watch it for the game, dog lovers watch it for the puppies, cat enthusiasts watch it for the kittens, and pop culture analysts watch it for the ads. But nobody seems to be having as much fun with our [insert anything here]-bowl obsession as Nat Geo Wild, which is going all out to promote a mysterious program called the Fish Bowl — billed as a four-hour reality-style program monitoring the activities of break-out star, Goldie the Goldfish.
A straight-faced Nat Geo Wild spokesperson for the first annual Fish Bowl, Mr. Mann, says "our network will be the only network fixing a camera lens on a singular fish swimming in a bowl for four straight hours," in an act of reclaiming the "bowl." The phrase "Super Bowl" is bleeped out, which is pretty funny.
Here's an example of the types of questions Mr. Mann fielded from the press, and how he responds:
Q: What do you have to say to critics who would accuse you of copying programs like the puppy and the kitten bowl?
A: I would say that any network that puts puppies and kittens in a bowl should lose their license and be fined by the FCC. I'm kidding, they shouldn't fine anybody, it's just a really dumb idea.
In other ads, Mr. Mann makes jokes that don't land and says Goldie skipped out on the conference because she's new to show business and has taken to "drinking like a fish," and reporters ask Goldie if she's dating a quarterback.
In a post on the Nat Geo TV Blogs page, National Geographic's Meg Gleason describes the event as:
Venerable household goldfish Goldie is excited for her big break to star in the event of the year on Super Bowl Sunday, stating, “I’m comfortable in my own scales and have no doubt the Fish Bowl will be the talk of the town.” Sure, puppies are cute, kittens are OK and football … well, as Goldie likes to say, “It’s just another day in the Bowl.”
She also hints at what we suspect the program will actually be, an opportunity for the Nat Geo Wild to cross-promote other network stars and generally have a good time:
Predatory cats, canines, and field goals are just the beginning. This remarkable little goldfish handles whatever the tides throw at her — food, a scuba diver, crazy red crabs, erupting volcanoes, and even a surprise visit from Dr. Pol and Cesar Millan.
The campaign would seem a little desperate if it weren't so unquestionably picked up by the mainstream media. The Wall Street Journal grouped it along with the Puppy Bowl and (literal) copy-cat Kitten Bowl which are both bankable and will be widely watched, without comment:
This year, the canine competition faces its own counterprogramming. On Feb. 2, Hallmark Channel will air its first "Kitten Bowl," billed as "the greatest feline showdown in cable TV history." That same day, Nat Geo Wild will premiere its "Fish Bowl," which follows a goldfish named Goldie as she navigates her glass bowl for four straight hours.
The Journal interviewed Nat Geo Wild's Executive Vice President and General Manager about the event, and he stayed in character:
Geoff Daniels, executive vice president and general manager of Nat Geo Wild, said the channel felt an obligation to launch its own animal bowl. "To put puppies and kittens in a bowl is just wrong," he said, "The only thing that belongs in a bowl, other than chips, are fish."
The Associated Press also took a Nat Geo Wild representative at his word when he said the event would be super boring:
On Friday, the Nat Geo Wild network said it has an idea that will make the Christmastime "Yule Log" broadcast look like exciting TV. "Fish Bowl," airing from 6 to 10 p.m. EST on Super Bowl Sunday, will show goldfish swimming around a bowl.
TheWrap.com seemed a little more in on the joke:
“We’re not holding back, this event will be complete with plenty of salsa, guacamole, pizza and chips for all!” Goldie said of her upcoming big day. As for training, Goldie added, “I’ve been watching my water intake to ensure I don’t get dehydrated and making multiple laps around the bowl to keep the endurance up.”
We'd imagine that best-case scenario for Nat Geo Wild would be to steal away some viewers from competitor Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl. And even if their Fish Bowl ploy doesn't work, it's clear they're having a lot of fun with it — planning a long-game viral marketing campaign that's in the spirit of Sunday's ads. After all, if everyone is watching the game anyway, what does it hurt to run four hours of a barely mobile goldfish?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.