Forget that Britney-Madonna-Christina three-way lip-smackdown--Justin and Janet just one-upped it with a very, well, titillating halftime performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII Sunday.
Football fans--and shocked producers--got an unexpected eyeful during the grand finale of Timberlake and Jackson's halftime-ending duet on "Rock Your Body" when the 'N Syncer grabbed Jackson's outfit and yanked off a patch of leather covering Jackson's right breast, briefly exposing her mammary to some 140 million viewers.
Many of those viewers were none too pleased about the action on the boob tube and they quickly phoned CBS to voice their displeasure. The network said it had fielded "several" irate calls after the halftime spectacular, which was produced by CBS' corporate kin MTV and also featured less revealing numbers by Nelly, P. Diddy and Kid Rock.
"CBS deeply regrets the incident," the network said in a press release.
Considering Jackson and Timberlake's bump-and-grind performance, their cozy off-stage relationship (they were briefly linked romantically following his bust-up with Spears), the fact that Jackson appeared to be wearing a star-shaped pasty over her nipple and MTV's reputation for too-hot TV moments (the network's Website featured the headline "Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Show Promises 'Shocking Moments'"), many viewers believed the incident to have been staged. Heck, it was more exciting than most of the first two quarters between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.
But all parties concerned denied the breast incident was preplanned.
CBS, which quickly cut away from the R-rated shot, said its executives had monitored rehearsals all week, "and there was no indication any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS' broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended."
MTV concurred. "The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance," the network said in a statement. "MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it."
Timberlake, who sang the lyric "I gotta have you naked by the end of this song" before doing the deed, also offered something resembling an apology. "I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl," he said in a statement. "It was not intentional and is regrettable."
But, malfunction or otherwise, the NFL wasn't in a forgiving mood. "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," Joe Browne, NFL executive vice president, said--and we don't think he was referring to Nelly and Diddy's rendition of "Hot in Herre."
"They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show," he continued.
"It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."
Nonetheless, Breastgate has given Jackson all kinds of free publicity as she prepares to release the single, "Just a Little While," off her new album, Damita Jo. The single hits radio stations Monday (and, according to a statement Sunday from label Virgin, "comes on the heels of Janet's triumphant return to the spotlight with her performance as the featured artist at today's Super Bowl"); the album drops March 30.
Jackson wasn't the only one showing off her assets Sunday. Perhaps inspired by the Justin-Janet show, and despite heightened security, a streaker ran out on the field at Houston's Reliant Stadium just before the kickoff of the second half. This time, though, CBS producers managed to avert another candid-camera incident and zoomed out from the field before the man came into focus.
And the action on the field finally lived up to the halftime fireworks, as New England won on a last-second field goal, 32-29.