Back in October, when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert capped their dual "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Restore Fear" with a song, they couldn't have known their humorous unity anthem – "There's No One More American Than We" – would become Fox’s Super Bowl entertainment playbook.
"From gay men who like football, to straight men who like 'Glee,' there's no one more American than we," the Comedy Central duo crooned.
Amid all the pre-game talk about the commercials – and even the game, here and there – Super Bowl XLV might turn out to be most remembered by some viewers as the year the big game met “Glee.”
Judging from the promos flooding Fox's airwaves, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that the Super Bowl is the pre-game warm-up for the return of its hit show about a high school glee club, following a nearly two-month hiatus.
But the hoopla is about a lot more than “Glee”: This year’s spectacular seems aimed at bringing a modicum of youth back to the Super Bowl-related entertainment, seven years after Janet Jackson traumatized the nation and made “wardrobe malfunction” a euphemism meaning a body-baring “oops!”
The halftime show is set to feature Black Eyed Peas, which will mark the first time since the Jackson fiasco that the act will be under 40 (and if not for Prince, who was 49 during at the time of his 2007 appearance, you could raise that benchmark to 50). Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first halftime show since 2004 to feature a female star: Fergie, who presumably will secure her lovely lady lumps well ahead of time.
Don’t get us wrong: the halftime shows in recent years, featuring the likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, have been strong, even if they were largely predictable greatest hits-type affairs. We’re still confused by all the criticism that met last year’s gig by The Who, though we think they erred by playing a medley instead of just blasting out three classics in their allotted 11 minutes.
What amuses us is that all of the so-called "safe" acts to play in the post-Jackson halftime era were once, to varying degrees, considered threats to Western Civilization in their respective youths.
Youth is exactly what Fox wants to attract to the Super Bowl, even if the performers aren't exactly edgy. Black Eyed Peas are fairly mainstream at this point as are the pre-game entertainers, among them Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera (who is slated to sing the National Anthem) and "Glee" breakout Lea Michele (she’ll sing “America the Beautiful”), whose presence represents blatant Fox cross-promotion.
The post-game "Glee" episode centers on a performance of another Jackson's song – Michael's "Thriller" – on a high school football field. Beyond being a cloyingly all-too-obvious tie-in to the Super Bowl, the set-up goes to the heart of "Glee" and its generally entertaining jocks v. gleeks premise.
High school is supposed to be the place where we all learn to get along despite our surface differences, even if it rarely works out that way (in real life or on “Glee”). Give Fox credit for trying to merge the two worlds, if only in the name of ratings. After all, what's more American than football and music (and big ratings)?
It's a rare instance where even Stewart and Colbert might have reason to sing Fox's praises.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.