For Super Bowl halftime, it's all about the show
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Super Bowl is entertainment, pure and simple. Well, maybe it's not so simple. OK, it's definitely not simple.
But it's entertainment, for sure. Especially the halftime show. It's exposure. It's big-time production numbers, with fireworks and hundreds of dancers and lots of ooohs and ahhhs. It's show biz, bay-bee, one of the biggest gigs in the world.
Where else can you get a one-time audience of 180 million people?
The Super Bowl halftime show is, in a lot of ways, the culmination of all the hyperventilation of Super Bowl week. Thursday, it made its first public steps when the performers came out to push the event -- as if it needed that -- for the benefit of the 3,000 media members ostensibly here to cover the game.
Has there ever been an odder pairing, on any stage anywhere, than *NSYNC and Aerosmith? A boy band and a band of geriatrics. Young pop on one side of the stage, old pops on the other.
"It's going to be a beautiful thing," said one of the members of Aerosmith. It was hard to tell which one. They all look alike.
This is what we get at halftime this year, thanks to the people at MTV, which is producing the show in a touching display of corporate synergy for their Viacom stablemates, CBS. Aerosmith and *NYSYNC, all brought to you by E*TRADE -- sheesh, even the asterisks and the capital letters are synergized in this thing -- with Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly chipping in.
It's a long way from Super Bowl I, when the Arizona and Michigan bands performed, no firecrackers were lit and they didn't even hold a press conference beforehand. But that's progress.
"It's going to be hot. It's going to be fun," said one of the members of *NSYNC -- I think it was Justin. "I hope you guys are looking forward to it as much as we are."
In fact, the halftime show is a huge draw Sunday, as much as the commercials and the game. As funky as the shows get sometimes -- in '96, Diana Ross was swept off the field in a helicopter -- the show will get a chance to make an impression.
And the folks at MTV promise this one won't be quite as funky an impression as some.
"A lot less puppets and baton twirlers," said Carson Daly, the MTV host.
If the interest in the show shown Thursday is any indication, Sunday will be a corker. A few hundred media members from all over the world crammed into a room at the Tampa Convention Center, put up with a corporate pitch from MTV and E*TRADE, all just to toss a few questions at the bands.
When the bands appeared, strutting onto the stage like -- well, like rock stars -- they quickly showed they know or care little about football. Evidently something from their youth.
"We were always too busy getting chased by the jocks 'cause we had long hair," one of the Aerosmith gang said. Didn't quite get which one he was.
The show promises to be loud and hip and MTV-like, but it will have some vestiges of the typical halftimes. Thousands of music fans will flood the field around a sideline-to-sideline stage-in-the-round. There will be lots and lots of noise.
And, of course, there will be fireworks.
"We'll be too busy trying not to get blown up by the pyro," said a member of Aerosmith.
I'm not sure which one he was.
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