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iconCan you name that half time? At which Super Bowl was Disney celebrating a silver anniversary? In which half-time did Carol Channing show 'em how it's done? Just kick, sorry, click here.

Alex Coletti's career play

MTV at Super Bowl:
Fielding a half time

January 26, 2001
Web posted at: 12:43 p.m. EST (1743 GMT)


In this story:

And then there's the grass

Pigskin

The whole family

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(CNN) -- "Our goal is to transform the stadium, make you forget you're at a football game for 10 minutes and throw you into the middle of the best rock show you've ever been to."

It's Alex Coletti and his staff setting that modest challenge for themselves for Sunday's Super Bowl half-time show. At the flip of a switch -- or strum on a guitar -- they're hoping fans go from chanting to partying.

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graphic Your prediction, please. The MTV-staged Super Bowl XXXV half-time show will be:

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"It's really all about music," says Coletti. Of course, he would say that -- he's one of MTV's producers. The extravaganza he's orchestrating is scheduled to feature rockers Aerosmith and boy band 'N Sync in the Raymond James Stadium at Tampa, Florida.

The National Football League and CBS have selected MTV to produce the Super Bowl XXXV half-time show during Sunday's broadcast -- a game expected to draw more than 100 million viewers worldwide. Coletti's resumé includes co-producing MTV's Video Music Awards and the "MTV Unplugged" series.

"I have no idea how I got suckered into this one," says Coletti, referring to his new assignment.

graphic

And then there's the grass

Half-time shows have evolved from the first Super Bowl in 1967 -- which showcased marching bands from the Universities of Arizona and Michigan -- into today's big-budget productions that field high-profile musicians and entertainers. Each year, you can expect to see thousands of local kids and teenagers supporting half-time stars with eager dance routines, the carrying of banners and waving of flags.

graphic
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa  

Because the NFL rotates the Super Bowl championship game between the four television networks annually, different production companies -- Radio City and Disney among them -- produce the show in turn. This is MTV's first year in the production rotation. And Coletti says it's proving to be quite an experience.

"This is certainly new to us and there's a bit of a learning curve," he says.

"On top of that, we don't like to do things the way they're normally done. So, we're coming in and shaking it up a little bit."

Coletti says the super gig comes with certain constraints his production crew is unaccustomed to encountering in other show venues. For one thing, there are football players. And a field.

"This is the most ridiculous set of circumstances to produce something of this scale," says Coletti. "Not only do you have to do something that's huge and beautiful and makes people go 'Wow,' but you've got to break it apart and get through tunnels. And I can't ruin the field because there's a game going on."

graphic
Alex Coletti  

That silly game, getting in the way of the half-time show, happens every year.

So all this week Coletti has been at his own private ground zero in Tampa supervising rehearsals, making sure all the pieces are going together -- putting out fires.

"It's all the logistics that make a difference," he says. "Other than that, it's only 10 minutes of music. Under normal circumstances, that's cake. But when you add all these other things you have to worry about -- the fact that it's not really our show, we're guests of the NFL -- we have to work within their whole structure."

graphic

Pigskin

To pull off these 10 minutes of music, Coletti has collaborated with MTV's president, executive producers and co-producer Patrick Byrnes to decide on the show's theme and performers. He says 'N Sync and Aerosmith were a natural choice, as two of the biggest pop and rock bands MTV has worked with.

graphic
Aerosmith  

"Over the past few years, we've done so much together it just seemed like we've got this opportunity to do this once-in-a-lifetime thing, and those were two very obvious options for us," says Coletti. "Rather than make a decision between the two bands, we thought, 'What's better than one? Both.'"

The anticipated result has prompted MTV's Carson Daly to announce that Sunday's blowout should be the "loudest" Super Bowl half time on record. E-Trade is a sponsor of the show, drawing some executive producer credits in exchange for its participation.

No contest, Carson, we're a long and noisy way from the days when Ella Fitzgerald, Al Hirt and the U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team got together for a salute to Louis Armstrong -- that was Super Bowl VI.

Only two years earlier, in fact, had the half time made the full-time break from university marching bands. That year, the Sousa gave way to diamonds' best friend, Carol Channing. For that matter, things were still pretty mellow a dozen years later in No. XVI when the show was a tribute to the '60s and Motown, with an anthem sung by Diana Ross to match. (This year, the anthem is to be sung by Backstreet Boys.)

  NAME THAT HALF TIME
graphic Can you recall specific half-time shows and the Super Bowls they were in? Give it a go.
 

Ross was back for No. XXX, when the game's Big 3-0 saw Her Supremacy airlifted out of the stadium by helicopter at show's end, a foolproof way to evade those autograph seekers. Channing was back, too, for a return engagement in VI. Gloria Estefan has had two turns, too, hitting XXVI and XXXII.

But the volume factor has probably grown pretty steadily over the years. Twelve months ago, in case you're having a momentary lapse and can't remember, an 80-person choir boosted the sound behind Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Toni Braxton.

graphic

The whole family

But Coletti's eye, of course, is on the audience. You want lots of eyeballs on this thing to justify those Super Bowl commercial price tags. CBS officials have said the network can pull in $150 million from advertisers for the entire day, up 12 percent from ABC's take last year.

Now, take into account, however, that MTV barely lets your father's generation cross the street in "Real World." Super Bowl's generations-spanning appeal is something of a stretch to Coletti and company.

"It's certainly a wider demographic than we've ever had to consider" at MTV, he says. "This isn't 18- to 24-year-olds. This is 8 to 80, truly. We have to take that into consideration."

graphic
'N Sync  

And taking that into consideration means the show won't be as risqué as some of MTV's performances have been in the past, nor does Coletti expect the show to look anything like the year Woody Herman's band took the field or the year Chubby Checker got out there to twist with the Rockettes.

"I don't want to slight anyone who's come before us or to say that ours is better," Coletti says, ever the gracious impresario. "But it's certainly going to be very MTV. Very loud, big and just something very unexpected."

As for next year's Super Bowl XXXVI, Coletti plans to do what he's done for the last few championship games.

"For the past couple of years, I've had a Super Bowl party at my apartment. I'm sure I'll be doing that next year. This is a one-time thing, I'm fairly certain."

Never say "never," Alex.

[watercooler]



RELATED STORIES:
Guide to a wired Super Bowl
January 22, 2001
Football food: Ideas for making the Super Bowl a delicious event
January 18, 2001
CBS: Super Bowl ads on target
January 9, 2001
Web firms: Super Bowl ads not a super idea
January 1, 2001

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