About 100 million people in 232 countries are expected to tune in for Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, and the game's intermission will be as tightly scripted as its opening drives. The Super Bowl halftime show has evolved into a strobe-lit, confetti-strewn spectacle that, depending on your penchant for pageantry, is either a tribute to the Super Bowl's majesty or a monument to a culture of excess.
Halftime festivities were once modest affairs. Collegiate bands did the honors at 1967's inaugural Super Bowl and at several other early clashes. In 1976 the nonprofit organization and performance group Up with People--lampooned on The Simpsons as Hooray for Everything--began a cloying stretch of dominance that included four performances in 11 years. But as viewership swelled, from 24 million for Super Bowl I to 92 million two decades later, the game's rotating cast of producers began hiring brighter stars. Which isn't to say the shows got better: Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill made a particularly mismatched lineup in 1992, as did Michael Jackson and a group of 3,500 children the following year. The show's most memorable glitch, of course, wasn't a casting choice: Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe snafu in 2004 sparked an FCC crackdown on racy content and prompted networks to go to tape delay for major live events.
Most recently, the Super Bowl has been a Valhalla for the graying gods of rock 'n' roll: Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones and Prince have all been trotted out to fend off the annual halftime bathroom run. This year's headliner will be Bruce Springsteen. The Boss is keeping his set list under wraps, but it's a pretty safe bet his nipple won't make an appearance.