A lot of people are pretty unimpressed with the Black Eyed Peas after their halftime performance yesterday. Whether you were horrified by the out-of-tune warbling or not, you have to admit that the production was at least interesting, which is more than you can say for some of the old halftime performances. Here's what happened - until 1992, the Super Bowl halftime show really wasn't much to write home about. There were lots of Up With People performances, marching bands doing formations you could see at any college game, and Carol Channing. Yeah, Carol Channing. When Fox yoinked 20 million+ of the Super Bowl's viewers in 1992 by counter-programming a special episode of In Living Color, producers of the Big Game decided it was time to step up their halftime efforts. But before then, here's some of the stellar programming you could have enjoyed:
1. Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D. Yes, the first-ever network broadcast in 3-D, starring world-famous magician Elvis Presto (actually a Solid Gold dancer), who sings his whole magic schtick vaguely in the style of Elvis. It's so bad I thought it was a spoof, but people… this was real.
2. Super Bowl IV in 1970 paid tribute to Mardi Gras at halftime with the vocal stylings of Carol Channing. She's a legend, I know, but I have a hard time imagining Carol Channing capturing the attention of football fans.
3. In 1974, fans were treated to Judy Mallett, Miss Texas 1973, playing the fiddle. I guess Carol Channing was busy?
4. There's nothing like self-promotion. When Disney was in charge of the whole halftime affair in 1977, they took advantage of the situation to not only get the most annoying and repetitive song in the history of time stuck everyone's heads ("It's a Small World," of course), they also tried to cram the members of The New Mickey Mouse Club down America's throats. Despite featuring superstars like Lisa Whelchel, AKA Blair from The Facts of Life and Corey Feldman's older sister Mindy, the ratings for the show were really bad. The Super Bowl stunt didn't help - the show was off the air by June.
5. "It's a Small World" worked once, so I guess Disney figured they'd trot it out again 14 years later. The 1991 halftime show is really bizarre to me. Kids in random costumes, the Armed Forces tribute, "It's a Small World," NKOTB, giant Disney balloons… there's just so much going on in three minutes. I'm not sure if it's totally cracked out or totally amazing.
6. OK, technically this was the pre-game, but in 1977, the big act used to get everyone jazzed for the game? Ashley Whippet. A one-hit wonder singer? Nope: a dog who was really good at Frisbee. I mean, really good, I don't want to discount Ashley's athletic prowess. Ashley helped popularize the whole craze and was even the star of an Oscar-nominated 1977 documentary called Floating Free. But still… a Frisbee-catching dog as pre-game entertainment?
7. The Winter Magic halftime extravaganza featured a tribute to the Winter Olympics, including live performances from skating champs Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano. People were unimpressed, because this was the year the Wayans Brothers took a nice chunk of viewers away at halftime.
8. Up with People, the famous non-profit that counts Glenn Close among its alums, provided the halftime entertainment for several shows in the '70s and '80s. This 1986 clip marks the last time they were the big draw. It's worth watching just for the high-waisted pants, neon sweatshirts and jackets with sleeves rolled to the elbow. Ahh... 80s fashion at its finest.
9. Nothing says football like a jazz clarinetist, am I right? Apparently the Super Bowl thought so, because the feature in 1973 was clarinetist, saxophonist and big band leader Woody Herman, along with the Michigan Marching Band, in an extravaganza called "Happiness Is."