By Kenny Herzog
There aren?t many events that can lay claim to having had both Prince and Carol Channing as their main attraction. But over the past 42 years, the Super Bowl Halftime Show has seen it all, from conventional marching band fare to Britney Spears trading verses with the only woman more haggard-looking than she is?Steven Tyler?to some middle aged lady?s breast falling out of her Hellraiser costume. Quantifying which ones were the most spectacular successes and phenomenal failures is all relative to whether you like your entertainment predictable and wholesome or epically absurd. We generally lean toward the latter, but taking all criteria into consideration, the following list ranks which Halftime Shows scored a touchdown with a two-point conversion, and which fumbled the ball after getting tackled by the kicker.
1. Super Bowl XXXI?”Blues Brothers Bash? with Dan Akroyd, John Goodman, James Belushi, ZZ Top and James Brown
Just awful. Might as well have brought out the Three Stooges with Shemp, and a . Nothing gets eyeballs glued to the tube like poor-man?s celebrity siblings and domestically abusive soul icons.
2. Super Bowl XXVII??Michael Jackson Halftime Show? with 3,500 Local Children
Was this language from the indictment?
3. Super Bowl XXVI??Winter Magic? with Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill
Viewers finally realized they weren?t mandated by law to endure the entirety of the game?s programming, as an enormous chunk of them opted for In Living Color instead of figure skating. Homophobes.
4. Super Bowl XXXV??The Kings of Rock and Pop? with Aerosmith, N*Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly
Eschewing the notion of once again pairing Michael Jackson with thousands of children??despite the title teasing at his presence??MTV threw its hat in the Halftime ring. And Britney vomited in it.
5. Super Bowl XXXIII??Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing? with Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Savion Glover
A blatant attempt to cash in on the soulless reemergence of a retro fad by lumping it incongruously with legacy artists. Basically a Gap Khakis-meets-Tostitos commercial.
6. Super Bowl XXX??Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 Years of the Super Bowl? with Diana Ross
At the end of the performance Miss Ross was taken away in a helicopter at the end. Granted, it was an ambulatory one, but people seemed to think it fit the theme nicely.
7. Super Bowl XXIX??Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye? with Indiana Jones and Marion, Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Arturo Sandoval and Miami Sound Machine
Nowadays, the forbidden eye is something college girls frequently prevent their male counterparts from entering. We can take the name, but a phony Karen Allen? Blastphemy.
8. Super Bowl XXIII,??Diet Coke Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D? with South Florida-Area Dancers and Performers and 3-D Effects
The part where Mos Def leapt out of my TV and started juggling Coke bottles was my personal favorite.
9. Super Bowl XXXIX?Paul McCartney
Hearing the former Mr. Mills rip through ?Live And Let Die? as he actually inches closer to mortality supplanted its rebellious clamor with creepy prophecy.
10. Super Bowl XXXIV??Tapestry of Nations? with Christina Aguilera, Phil Collins, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, Edward James Olmos and an 80-Person Choir
If the producers of this Show had ever seen James Olmos scampering about full-frontally nude in 1981?s Wolfen, it?s doubtful they?d tap him as the omniscient narrator for this pandering tribute to global togetherness.
11. Super Bowl VII??Happiness Is? with the University of Michigan Marching Band and Woody Herman
Um, a warm gun? Ok, no, what you drink for breakfast? Oh, oh, I know, a movie about Phillip Seymour Hoffman jerking off to Lara Flynn Boyle and wanting to kill himself? Man, this game show sucks.
12. Super Bowl XXL?The Rolling Stones
There was something sad about Mick Jagger reinforcing the Stones? calculated return to badassitude by pulling his Jim Morrison-on-Ed Sullivan schtick and bucking network censors. That the 60-year old was singing ?You make a dead man come,? just made it something creepy.
13. Super Bowl VIII??A Musical America? with University Of Texas Band featuring Miss Texas on fiddle
Slightly tweaked from the original idea of ?America: The Musical? about Native Americans getting scalped while Miss Texas skewered buffalo over a propane grill.
14. Super Bowl XIII??Carnival Salute to the Caribbean? with Ken Hamilton and various Caribbean bands (tie)
Ken Hamilton was superb.
14. Super Bowl IV?Tribute To Mardi Gras with Carol Channing (tie)
Len Dawson totally tapped that shit.
16. Super Bowl V?Florida A&M University Band
WTF? Was Carol Channing busy or something?
17. Super Bowl VI?Tribute to Louis Armstrong with Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt and the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team
Whew, Channing returns. All is right in the world. And Sugar Lips, too!
18. Super Bowl III??America Thanks? with the Florida A&M University Band
It also throws with its right hand and writes with its left.
19. Super Bowl XVIII??Super Bowl XVIII?s Salute to the Superstars of the Silver Screen? with the University Of Florida and Florida State University Bands
Staged as a last-minute response to the Stanley Cup Playoffs? ?Salute to the Superstars of the Iron Curtain.? The less said about it the better.
20. Super Bowl XII,??From Paris to the Paris Of America? with Tyler Apache Belles, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt
This one closely edged out ?From Baghdad to the Iraq Of Texas.?
21. Super Bowl XVI??Salute to the 1960s and Motown? with Up With People
I?m pretty sure Barry Gordy didn?t even like people. Good thing all he had to do was be up with them.
22. Super Bowl X??200 Hundred Years and Just a Baby: A Tribute to America?s Bicentennial? with Up With People
Apparently, things were really looking up for people in the ?70s.
23. Super Bowl XX??Beat Of The Future? with Up With People
Nothing like giving people a glimpse of the future with a group that?s performed at the Super Bowl twice before.
24. Super Bowl XIV??Salute To The Big Band Era? with Up With People
People. Up. Okay, we get it already.
25. Super Bowl XV??Mardi Gras Festival? with the Southern University Band and Helen O?Connell
Who needs beads and breasts when you have brass instruments and a homely big-band singer?
26. Super Bowl II?Grambling University Band
Had they waited a mere five years, the Allman Brothers could have joined them for in inspiring rendition of ?Gramblin? Man.? But then five more regular seasons would have passed and it would have been weird.
27. Super Bowl XXXVII?Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting
While knowingly modest as a transition out of U2?s 9/11 tribute the previous year, this innately boring bill was cursed with being sandwiched between the most moving and notorious Halftime extravaganzas.
28. Super Bowl XXI??Salute to Hollywood?s 100th Anniversary? with Southern California-Area High School Drill Teams and Dancers
Paying homage to the silent-film era seemed like a good idea at the time?
29. Super Bowl XI??It?s a Small World? with the Los Angeles Unified All-City Band and Audience Card Stunt
In which the Ace of Clubs disappeared up Carol Channing?s uterus.
30. Super Bowl XXVIII??Rockin? Country Sunday? with Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker and the Judds
Wynona may have been the only person that day drinking more beer than the average male viewer.
31. Super Bowl XXXII??Salute to Motown?s 40th Anniversary? with Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Queen Latifah, Martha Reeves and the Temptations
Apparently, just because the Super Bowl occurs in the same handful of cities numerous times, each location can only be generically reduced to one cultural contribution. Who?s to say America wouldn?t have been riveted by a salute to domestic car-manufacturer layoffs?
32. Super Bowl XXII??Something Grand? with Chubby Checker, the Rockettes and 88 Grand Pianos
Oh, hey, I wonder if he?ll do ?The Twist!?
33. Super Bowl XXIV??Salute Tt New Orleans and the 40th Anniversary Of Peanuts? with Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw, Irma Thomas and the Nicholls State University, Southern University and USL Bands
New Orleans AND The 40th Anniversary of Peanuts? You spoil us.
34. Super Bowl IX??Tribute to Duke Ellington? with Mercer Ellington and Grambling State University Band
Outside of quibbling over the merits of Ellington?s quaint big-band swing vs. radical mid-century bebop, I suppose it?s sort of difficult to disparage a Duke homage.
35. Super Bowl XIX??World of Children?s Dreams? with Tops In Blue
The Air Force?s premier entertainment troupe came out to entertain us. ?You got something against the Air Force? I do.?
36. Super Bowl XVII??Kaleido SUPERscope? with the Los Angeles Super Drill Team
The A-Team premiered on NBC after they aired this Super Bowl. And you know Mr. T pitied the fool who was too busy stuffin? their face with nachos to be mystified by the majesty of Kaledio SUPERscope.
37. Super Bowl XXV??A Small World Salute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl? with New Kids On The Block, Disney Characters, Warren Moon, 2000 Local Children and Audience Card Stunt
A landmark show, it actually wasn?t aired until post-game as a result of Persian Gulf War coverage interrupting Halftime. Immediately thereafter the 2,000 local children were sent to Iraq.
38. Super Bowl XXXVIII?Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock
What?s weird about Nipplegate is the way it obscured our memory of the remaining, fairly impressive slew of musicians. It was like the McLovin? of Halftime performances.
39. Super Bowl I?Universities Of Arizona and University Of Michigan Bands
All you really need. Two marching bands. Where the hell did it all go wrong?
40. Super Bowl XXXVI?U2?s Tribute to 9/11 Victims
In a surreal display of America?s ethical duality, U2 brought the most macho football fans to tears with a mini-set that was flanked by the names of 9/11 victims, while NBC tried to lure viewers away with Playboy Playmates eating maggots on Fear Factor. Fortunately, most kept their eyes glued to FOX for sports? most cathartic moment since the Yankees nearly nabbed the championship two months prior.
41. Super Bowl XXLI?Prince
They finally got it right. Recruit one dynamic, virtuosic, mind-bogglingly talented showman and take the leash off him amidst a torrential rainstorm. But watching the one and only Mr. Rogers Nelson blast through wind gusts with his guitar as if it were dictating their path and take an entire stadium??not to mention worldwide TV audience??into his hand like a grain of sand wasn?t just good entertainment by the Super Bowl?s standards. It was one of the best televised live performances anyone would see all year.