Wynton Marsalis’ CBS Super Bowl pregame special to explore the city’s culture, history
The roots of CBS’ Super Bowl pregame hour dedicated to New Orleans – hosted by Wynton Marsalis, “New Orleans: Let the Good Times Roll” will air at 11 a.m. game day, Feb. 3, as part of the network’s seven-hour pre-kickoff package – reach back to a recorded piece Marsalis did for the network a few hours before the New Orleans Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
That day, Marsalis recited an essay, punctuated by music, that summed up what four-plus decades of being a Saints fan meant to the Who Dat faithful, all in the context of the rhythms and history of the city itself.
It concluded: “It’s like waiting 43 years to hear somebody say ‘I Love You’ back. And they do.”
This year’s Marsalis special was born at a brainstorming session in spring 2012.
“We were talking about the city of New Orleans and obviously the great Super Bowl tradition there – the music, the culture, the cuisine, the architecture — and somebody in our sales division said, ‘Why don’t we do a show featuring the music of New Orleans? We’ll do a live show. We’ll get Harry Connick, Jr., and Wynton Marsalis and Trombone Shorty,’” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, during a Tuesday (Jan. 8) phone interview. “Someone said, ‘What if it rains?’ It’s really expensive to get performers on network television. Music specials don’t do that well on prime time television, not to mention Sunday-afternoon television. Then I remembered that piece Wynton Marsalis had done for us. It was so heartfelt and authentic. It was obviously just a beautiful piece.”
Marsalis, a CBS News consultant, was brought in for a meeting.
“We started tossing around ideas,” McManus said. “I kind of gave a broad outline of a show we might do, and then Wynton started talking about a show he wanted to do. He started talking about how no other city has everything that New Orleans has. Cities have great culture, they have great food, they have great architecture, some have great history. But no city in the world has all these things combined. He started going through it. He did a minute on the food and all the different kinds of cuisine there. A minute on the architecture. A minute on the music, and how the musicians are recovering from Katrina, and how important this all is.
“He finished, and I said, ‘That’s the first five minutes of our show right there. Guys, I wish we had a camera.’ We started talking about it after that and we all got more and more exited.
“It’s very different. It’s not your normal NFL preview or pregame show to do, but the genesis came from this incredible essay he did for us. We thought that if we could take some of that magic and some of that poetry and some of that beauty and make it into an hour show, it would be pretty special.”
McManus said that some of the components of the hour are still in production – Sarah Rinaldi of CBS Sports is the special’s producer – adding that more than 30 interviews have already been filmed. One segment will cover previous Super Bowls in the city — “There has to be some football,” McManus said – while others will explore music and food.
“The concept is to kind of see the city through all the people who live in that city, whether they are poor or rich or black or white or older or younger,” he said. “Some of the rushes I’ve seen are just spectacular in terms of the beauty and the color that they have captured of New Orleans.”
Given Super Bowl Sunday advertising rates, CBS is dedicating some pricey real-estate to “New Orleans: Let the Good Times Roll.”
It will also be delivering an hour of priceless international attention to the game’s host city and its culture on the most-watched day of the TV year.
“There’s really not a lot of risk,” McManus said. “The biggest risk is that it won’t be a good show, and that in my mind is not a risk because of the people involved. If it gets a very, very low rating, so be it. We’re not doing this to attract a huge audience. We’re doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do. It’s a great tribute to a terrific city that has come through a very difficult time. I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s an important show to do.
“If we wanted to get a higher rating, I could do a show on the world’s greatest NFL cheerleaders. That would probably get a higher rating than doing a show on New Orleans with Wynton Marsalis. This is the right thing to do.”