Up With People
Super Bowl XX (1986)
How do you explain Up With People without making it sound like a cult or the fevered dream of an overindulged '70s or '80s club kid?
You get as reductive as possible.
Imagine if the cast of Glee was called in to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show. Now imagine that the producers of that show could only get the rights to small snippets of the popular songs of the moment, so they had to write the rest of the music and lyrics themselves. Imagine that the resulting songs sounded like the soundtrack to a PBS special and were so feeble that the show's producers ordered show creator Ryan Murphy to hire hundreds of dancers to distract viewers from the music, or have his show immediately canceled and himself and co-creator Brad Falchuck cast into the the psychiatric hospital from American Horror Story: Asylum.
Throw in some voice-of-God narration from the stadium PA system, some dead-eyed singers staring into nothingness and a few random color guards and drill teams and you have Up With People. That's what viewers had for halftime entertainment for 20% of the Super Bowl's first two decades, as the group also performed at the 1976, 1980 and 1982 halftime shows.
Up With People looked like an English language overdub of a Kim Jong Un birthday celebration and sounded like what the Manson family would have been doing if they didn't decide to go murdering people and ending the '60s. It was terrifying but, for some reason, none of us could look away.