The Show That Launched Jennifer Lopez's Career Completely Changed Super Bowl Halftime Shows

By now, everyone's set to tune into the Super Bowl to see what sort of spectacle Jennifer Lopez has in store for Miami and the entire world. News of her upcoming performance at the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show made headlines yesterday, but according to Rolling Stone, part of Lopez's legacy has been a part of the big show since 1992.

That year was a watershed moment for the sporting event, because Fox decided to air an episode of In Living Color, the show that introduced the world to Jennifer Lopez, at halftime to pull viewers away from the game. The experiment birthed the Super Bowl Halftime Show as we all know it today. From that year on, networks fought to get the biggest names in entertainment to practically guarantee viewership and make sure none of the other networks would even try to compete on Super Bowl Sunday.

Jennifer Lopez

"We should do a live episode of In Living Color," Dan McDermott, a programming executive who worked on the show, recounted then-Fox president Jamie Kellner saying during a brainstorming session. "We'll make a big deal out of it. We'll convince America to turn the channel at halftime."

Back in '92, the Super Bowl was already the most viewed event of the year — and nothing's changed since then. But Kellner was seen as a rebel back when he was heading Fox, so it wasn't entirely a surprise when his team heard the idea of challenging the football game. Before 1992, the halftime show included marching bands, aging entertainers, and even an Elvis impersonator. Fox thought that In Living Color would be enough to draw viewers away from the show and they were right.

"Nearly twenty-nine million viewers tuned in that night, and the Super Bowl’s ratings for the second half crashed by ten points," Rolling Stone reports.

Kirstie Alley, Pauly Shore, and Blair Underwood all guest-starred in the production, which had standbys such as Jim Carrey, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, and David Alan Grier reprising their most well-known characters.

The show was such a huge success that CBS, which was airing the actual Super Bowl, added Gloria Estefan to its Disney-produced halftime show as a way to draw viewers away from the In Living Color special. 

While Lopez herself didn't feature in the halftime show, she did make a name for herself on the show as one of the Fly Girls, a dance troupe that featured in many skits. She was on the show for two years before becoming a backup dancer for Janet Jackson and she's open about how much her dance background helped her become who she is today. 

"I always consider myself as a dancer first," Lopez told the Daily Mail. "I became a singer and actress after dancing. For me, it's so part of who I am."

After the In Living Color special, networks made sure that viewers wouldn't turn away by enlisting big-name performers. Names such as Michael Jackson, who performed the year after In Living Color's guerilla broadcast, and more recent performers such as Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga keep eyes glued to the screen. In a tiny way, Lopez taking the stage is a return to her roots and it's something she's not taking lightly.

Check out the landmark episode of In Living Color, below.

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