In the early 1990s, the Super Bowl halftime show was still finding its footing as a must-watch event for audiences beyond football enthusiasts. However, one groundbreaking television moment helped pave the way for the halftime show’s transformation into a cultural phenomenon: the live episode of “In Living Color” in 1992.
“In Living Color,” created by Keenen Ivory Wayans, was huge in the early 90s, a cultural touchstone and a ratings hit!
On January 26, 1992, during Super Bowl XXVI, “In Living Color” made history by airing a special live episode during the halftime show slot in an effort to steal viewers during a lull in the game. Smart, right?! The live episode was a smash hit with memorable sketches like “Men on Football” to high-energy musical performances and celebrity cameos, the show pulled out all the stops to deliver a halftime experience like no other.
The plan worked, as over 20 MILLION people tuned in!
What made the live episode of “In Living Color” particularly significant was its ability to appeal to a wide audience demographic. While previous halftime shows had primarily catered to football fans, “In Living Color” offered something for everyone, blending humor, music, and pop culture references in a way that resonated with viewers of all ages and backgrounds.
The success of the live episode of “In Living Color” pushed the producers of the halftime show to rethink everything. It demonstrated the untapped potential of the Super Bowl halftime slot as a platform for entertainment beyond traditional marching bands and drill teams. It showed that audiences were hungry for innovative, boundary-pushing content that could captivate and entertain them during the halftime break.
So how did the NFL answer Fox’s live episode? By booking the biggest name they could get. Michael Jackson! His 1993 Super Bowl halftime show was epic and set the bar for halftimes shows that followed.
If you want to get a great retelling of that backstory, check out this interview with the halftime show’s director!