Really? Let’s look at the half time acts for the past decade, not counting 2010. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
2009 - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band
2008 - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2007 - Prince and the Florida University A&M Band
2006 - The Rolling Stones
2005 - Paul McCartney
2004 - Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock
2003 - Shania Twain, No Doubt, Sting
2002 - U2
2001 - Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige
2000 - Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton
1999 - Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Savion Glover
None of those acts strikes me as being out of anyone’s comfort zone, not even Justin and Janet up to the time of their “wardrobe malfunction.” All popular, “safe” acts that have stirred relatively little controversy and that “Middle America” can be presumed to be comfortable with. Almost all these acts fall within JRDelerious’s set of “cheeseball pop, melisma mamas, ArchaeoRock and Pop Country.” Prince raised some ire among Tipper Gore and her set with his lyrics, and there was that whole “Artist formerly known as” business when he was at war with his record company, Warner Bros. And Britney had her bizarre little episodes, but that was pretty long after her Super Bowl appearance. But outside of 2004’s show, there has been very little in the Super Bowl shows that would make millions of Americans turn away in bewilderment or disgust. Or replay over and over as millions of people were reported to have done in making the incident TiVo’s most re-watched segment up to that date. Something on the order of another Timberlake/Jackson incident would indeed be a major surprise to the viewers whom the network executives perceive as having a sensitive nature.