PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If you're a U.S. television viewer 22 or younger, you've never known a low-budget Super Bowl halftime show.
That hasn't always been a good thing.
Before 1992, the Super Bowl halftime show was exactly that: A little show put on to fill the time between the game's halves. Until 1990, that show usually consisted of marching bands, pre-Glee chorus groups and the occasional tune from Carole Channing, George Burns, Andy Williams and other notables from yesteryear. It was inoffensive, it was mildly entertaining and typically didn't get a whole lot of lip service at the water cooler the next day.
That all changed after Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. A company called Timberline Productions decided to celebrate the host city of Minneapolis and the Olympic year by saddling CBS with a halftime show featuring a figure skating performance from Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill and exactly two songs from easy-listening powerhouse Gloria Estefan. Keep in mind that figure skating and its non-contact, painstakingly judged format are not only the polar opposite of football, but perhaps the one event that the most die-hard football fans would go out of their way to avoid.
The NFL, its network partners and its sponsors didn't see it that way. They not only had the hubris to believe that viewers would tune in to any grade-school talent show they put on just because it was sandwiched by the Super Bowl, but continually tested viewers' patience by keeping pop acts to a two-song limit or eliminating them all together. Upstart network Fox saw this and just knew that the NFL was lulling the prized 18- to 49-year-old demographic into a near coma. For the 1992 Super Bowl, Fox put together a special halftime edition its sketch comedy show In Living Color.
The show that gave the world Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jennifer Lopez and the entire Wayans family not only held its own against Gloria Estefan On Ice, but drew more than 20 million viewers away from a Super Bowl telecast that averaged 80 million viewers throughout. That's one in four viewers who abandoned CBS for something, anything, that didn't involve a triple axel or Live For Loving You.
The NFL vowed to never have itself or its network partners humiliated in such fashion again and immediately booked Michael Jackson as the halftime act for NBC's Super Bowl XXVII coverage in 1993. The result: Those who saw it remember Jackson's set and the big audience card trick, but don't recall that it was O.J. Simpson who conducted the ceremonial coin toss little more than a year before his arrest in the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
That blockbuster approach to the Super Bowl halftime show has paid off mightily. Beyonce and a reunited Destiny's Child pulled in about 104 million viewers last year. That was the second-best Super Bowl halftime viewership of all time, trailing only the 114 million who Madonna drew a year earlier.
The league and its partners haven't hit the mark every time, though. We took a look back through 48 years of halftime shows, and while we couldn't find fault the marching bands -- because you wish you were lucky enough to have the NFL throw you a modern, awesome marching band -- there were a whole lot of other misguided attempts at holding an audience. Here are just five: